Marijuana Legalization

Citizens Count Editor

In Brief:

  • Recreational marijuana is currently illegal in New Hampshire, though the state does permit use of medical marijuana for treatment of a set list of conditions.
  • There have been several legislative attempts to legalize marijuana for recreational use.
  • Federal prohibitions on marijuana use or sale still apply in states that have legalized the drug, leading to conflicts in matters such as banking and taxation.
  • Pro: Legalizing marijuana would allow adults freedom of choice to use a relatively harmless substance while increasing state revenue and freeing up law enforcement resources.
  • Con: Marijuana does have negative health impacts, and legalization would increase use in the midst of a drug crisis.

Issue Facts:

State laws legalizing marijuana eliminate all criminal penalties for possession or use of the drug for purely recreational purposes. They often permit cultivation for personal use as well as creating a taxed and regulated commercial market for cultivation and sale of larger quantities of marijuana.

These policies differ significantly from the legalization of marijuana for medical purposes, or the decriminalization of marijuana, which only reduces penalties for possession of limited quantities of the drug. In New Hampshire, recreational marijuana is currently illegal.

The issue of marijuana legalization became a hot-button for states following the passage of Colorado’s Proposition 64, which legalized recreational use for adults 21 and over in 2012. Since then, a total of eight states have passed laws legalizing marijuana. Thus far, all successful legalization efforts have taken place in the form of a ballot initiative or public referendum, rather than through regular legislative processes.

The New Hampshire constitution does not currently allow for public referendums.

Current New Hampshire marijuana law

New Hampshire does have a medical marijuana law, allowing sale and use of cannabis for the treatment of a set list of medical conditions, including cancer. See our Medical Marijuana issue page for more information.

Currently, New Hampshire law otherwise considers marijuana to be a restricted substance. Though the state has decriminalized possession of small amounts of the drug (up to 3/4 of an ounce), getting caught with larger amounts can result in hefty fines or jail time. Sale or intent to sell is a felony offense punishable by up to 20 years imprisonment. Fines and sentences are doubled for offenses committed in school zones.

Minors committing marijuana-related offenses can also have their drivers’ licenses revoked for up to five years.

Legalization in New Hampshire

The history of attempts to legalize marijuana in New Hampshire goes back to 2010 and a bill (HB 1652) that was ultimately killed in the New Hampshire House. Further legislative activity related to marijuana legalization has taken place every year since 2012, but no legalization bill has managed to make it past a vote of the House or Senate.

Public opinion polls in New Hampshire have shown a majority of citizens in favor of marijuana legalization, including a 2015 WMUR/Granite State poll (60% in favor) and a 2015 LFDA Citizens Voices opinion summary (91%).

Federal Marijuana Law

Marijuana has been prohibited on the federal level since 1937. In 1970, the Controlled Drug Act listed marijuana as a schedule I substance.

Federal law continues to apply, even in states that have legalized the drug. This has led to challenges for marijuana-based businesses operating within state regulations in matters such as banking and federal tax payments or deductions.

There have been several bills submitted to Congress that would end the federal prohibiton of marijuana or reduce the potential for conflict between federal and state regulations in states that have legalized cannabis. However, no such bill has been successful as of yet.

Related Issues:

Expanding Medicinal Marijuana

Marijuana Decriminalization


"For" Position

By Citizens Count Editor

Pro: New Hampshire should legalize marijuana for adult recreational use

  • Marijuana is less harmful and addictive than alcohol or tobacco, and should therefore be legal for adults to use if they choose, as a matter of personal freedom.
  • Legalization of marijuana would save government funds currently spent on enforcement and punishment, which could instead be used for prevention and addiction treatment. This would also free up law enforcement resources to pursue more serious or violent crimes.
  • Taxing the sale of legal marijuana could be a valuable source of additional revenue for the state.
  • Legalizing marijuana would undermine the black market for the drug, which helps to fund gangs and other organized criminal networks.
  • Legalization and regulation would ensure that marijuana sold in New Hampshire is a unadulterated. Currently, the drug is often mixed or laced with other substances which can be more harmful. 

"Against" Position

By Citizens Count Editor

Con: Recreational marijuana should remain illegal in New Hampshire

  • Marijuana can be harmful, particularly to adolescents, affecting cognition and memory or increasing the risk of lung cancer. Heavy use has also be linked to addiction and withdrawal symptoms such as insomnia and anxiety.
  • It is foolish to legalize another intoxicating substance when the state is in the midst of a drug crisis, especially as some professionals argue that marijuana is a ‘gateway drug’ that can lead to the use of more dangerous substances.
  • Legalizing marijuana would lead to increased usage, which would ultimately impact state funds in the form of increased health care costs.
  • Any revenue gained from legalization would be largely offset by the additional costs of regulation.
  • Driving under the influence of marijuana is dangerous, but is far more difficult to detect than blood alcohol levels, making enforcement a challenge. 


Interim Study

Establishes the Cannabis Control Commission to oversee marijuana sales.

Interim Study

If recreational marijuana becomes legal, this bill establishes where cannabis can be grown and establishes the Department of Agriculture, Markets, and Food as the licensing agency to oversee all cannabis growing operations.

Killed in the House

Makes it a misdemeanor to consume marijuana or any marijuana product in public. This bill also adds a $350 fine to misdemeanor marijuana offenses. Lastly, this bill requires marijuana and marijuana products to be transported in a secure container that is not in the passenger area of the vehicle.

Signed by Governor

Establishes a commission to study the legalization, regulation, and taxation of marijuana.

Signed by Governor

Prohibits the designation of industrial hemp as a controlled substance.  The Senate amended the bill to instead establish a committee to study legalizing industrial hemp.

Interim Study

If the state ever allows the sale of marijuana for recreational use, this bill requires the Liquor Commission to buy and sell marijuana the same way it does alcohol.

Interim Study

Legalizes and taxes marijuana for adults over age twenty-one. The bill outlines various regulations, from the ability of municipalities to control the location of marijuana establishments, to labels disclosing the THC in each serving of a marijuana product. The bill also legalizes hemp. The House amended the bill to instead legalize possession and homegrowing of marijuana without allowing sales.

Killed in the Senate

Allows a person twenty-one years of age or older to possess up to 1 ounces of marijuana and to cultivate no more than 6 marijuana plants without penalty. This bill also establishes a committee to study the legalization, regulation, and taxation of marijuana.

Killed in the House

Legalizes and taxes marijuana for adults over age eighteen.

Tabled in the House

Allows a person twenty-one years of age or older to possess up to 2 ounces of marijuana and to cultivate no more than 6 marijuana plants without penalty.

Killed in the House

Legalizes and taxes marijuana for adults over age twenty-one.

Killed in the Senate

Establishes a commission to study legalization of marijuana.

Killed in the House

Legalizes personal use of up to one ounce of marijuana by persons twenty-one years of age or older. This bill also authorizes the licensing of marijuana wholesale, retail, cultivation, and testing facilities, and imposes a tax on marijuana sales.

Killed in the House

Removes criminal penalties for possession of marijuana, without any framework for taxation.

Killed in the House

Legalizes and taxes marijuana for adults over age twenty-one.

Should NH legalize the recreational use of marijuana?


5 comment(s)
1 comment(s)
1 comment(s)
1 comment(s)
1 comment(s)
1 comment(s)


1 comment(s)
2 comment(s)


Christopher White
- canaan

Sun, 11/27/2016 - 3:26pm

I suffer from ptsd, and i have many issues with pain.Marijuana has helped me with both issues and without side affects of any kind what so ever.Marijuana has helped me sleep through the night without the nightmares,and for the severe body pains that i deal with on a daily basis.Its time for change,its time to make america great again yes we need to get these old bastards out of the offices that makes the rules .Out with the old and in with the new i say.Live free or die what a fucking joke that is.Hundreds if not thousands of people die every day in america from alcohol related diseases or accidents and how many from marijuana do the math. Lets get real folks.

timothy kay sr's picture
Timothy Kay sr
- berlin

Fri, 01/08/2016 - 9:32am

when you have the responsibility of running a dispensory, you supply medicine to people that need it, if you only have 3 or 4 people that can be customers, if they choose, how can you justify establishing that dispensory? well..... that would be that you cannot! change the qualifying factors for these stores and youll find the light bill is now easy to pay! dont ruin a good thing by choking this wonderful law, let people qualify that diserve to qualify. life will go on, i promise! thank you

timothy kay sr's picture
Timothy Kay sr
- berlin

Mon, 11/28/2016 - 5:33pm

well, my views have changed greatly, this is the greatest state, i have my med cannibis card, i love the care and thought that the dispensory people have put into the medicine they distribute. wow, this is the stuff people with ailments need. thank you and be patient.

timothy kay sr's picture
Timothy Kay sr
- berlin

Wed, 01/06/2016 - 11:47am

hi, i am a 3 time head injury survivior, i am not allowed to access medical marijuana dispensories because my meds don't cause me side effects. well, by the strict definition, no i don't. if i was to move to maine or vermont, i qualify instantly. well fine be that way. bad news fellas, you wont keep the dispensories open long with 2 or 3 qualifying patients, they cannot smoke enough to pay for them. another good idea planned to death. you voted medical smoke yes , people using it no. no patients, no money to pay your bills. good luck!!!


Log in or register to post comments

Issue Status

The NH Democratic Party officially added legalizing recreational marijuana to its party platform in June. The two Democratic candidates for governor, Molly Kelly and Steve Marchand, have both stated their support for legalization. 

View our profile pages to see where all the candidates stand on this and other issues


Here in NH, your opinion counts. We make it easy to find and reach out to your elected officials about the issues that matter most to you. Click to search and contact your elected officials!

Join Citizens Count

Join our constantly growing community. Membership is free and supports our efforts to help NH citizens become informed and engaged. 


©2018 Live Free or Die Alliance | The Live Free or Die Alliance is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization.