New Hampshire Senate Approves Bill to Expand Medical Marijuana Program, Further Block Prohibition in Effect

CONCORD, N.H. (Apr. 3, 2017) – The New Hampshire Senate has passed a bill to expand the state’s medical marijuana program. If approved by the House, this measure would further nullify the federal prohibition on cannabis in practice.

Senate Bill 159 (SB159) was introduced by Sen. Dan Feltes (D-Concord) and Sen. John Reagan (R-Deerfield). The Legislation would add Ehlers-Danlos syndrome to the list of medical conditions permissible to be treated with medical marijuana in the state.

SB159 passed in the Senate on Mar. 29 by a voice vote. It will now move to the House for further consideration.

The New Hampshire legislature passed a law legalizing medical marijuana in 2013. The Department of Health and Human Services began pre-registering patients for medical marijuana ID cards in the fall of 2015, and the first dispensary opened last April. Allowing patients suffering from these four additional conditions to access medical marijuana would further accelerate the medicinal cannabis program in New Hampshire.

In addition to this legislation, there are many other comprehensive bills that are active in the House to greatly expand the medical marijuana program in the Live Free or Die State. Rep. Eric Schleien (R-Hillsborough) introduced House Bill 157 (HB157), House Bill 158 (HB158), House Bill 159 (HB159) and House Bill 160 (HB160) while Rep. Robert Renny Cushing (D-Rockingham) introduced House Bill 197 (HB197) and Rep. Brian Stone (R-Rockingham) introduced House Bill 222 (HB222) to create more robust patient access to medical marijuana.

In addition, Rep. Robert Cushing (D-Hampton) introduced House Bill 640 (HB640) to decriminalize marijuana possession in the state, which has already passed the House. Despite the federal prohibition on marijuana, all of these measures remain perfectly constitutional, and the feds can do little if anything to stop them in practice.

EFFECT ON FEDERAL PROHIBITION

New Hampshire’s medical marijuana program removes one layer of laws prohibiting the possession and use of marijuana, but federal prohibition remains in place.

Of course, the federal government lacks any legal authority to ban or regulate marijuana within the borders of a state, despite the opinion of the politically connected lawyers on the Supreme Court. If you doubt this, ask yourself why it took a constitutional amendment to institute federal alcohol prohibition.

While state law does not alter federal law, it takes a step toward nullifying in effect the federal ban. FBI statistics show that law enforcement makes approximately 99 of 100 marijuana arrests under state, not federal law. By easing state prohibition, New Hampshire essentially sweeps away part of the basis for 99 percent of marijuana arrests.

Furthermore, figures indicate it would take 40 percent of the DEA’s yearly-budget just to investigate and raid all of the dispensaries in Los Angeles – a single city in a single state. That doesn’t include the cost of prosecution. The lesson? The feds lack the resources to enforce marijuana prohibition without state assistance.

A GROWING MOVEMENT

Colorado, Washington state, Oregon and Alaska have already legalized recreational cannabis with California, Nevada, Maine, and Massachusetts set to join them after ballot initiatives in favor of legalization were passed in those states last year. Having already legalized medical marijuana to a certain extent, New Hampshire has many chances to relax their restrictions against cannabis even further in 2017.

With more than two-dozen states allowing cannabis for medical use as well, the feds find themselves in a position where they simply can’t enforce prohibition any more.

“The lesson here is pretty straight forward. When enough people say, ‘No!’ to the federal government, and enough states pass laws backing those people up, there’s not much the feds can do to shove their so-called laws, regulations or mandates down our throats,” public policy analyst Michael Boldin said.

The expansion of the state’s medical marijuana law also demonstrates another important reality. Once a state puts laws in place legalizing marijuana, it tends to eventually expand. Once the state tears down some barriers, markets develop and demand expands. That creates pressure to further relax state law. SB159 represents another step forward for patients seeking alternative treatments and a further erosion of deplorable federal marijuana prohibition.

UP NEXT

SB159 must now be considered in the House. It will be referred to a House committee before it can receive a full House vote. Stay in touch with our Tenther Blog and our Tracking and Action Center for the latest updates on SB159 and all marijuana-related legislation in New Hampshire.