The New Hampshire House has just passed a bill that would reduce the penalty for possession of one ounce or less of marijuana to a civil violation punishable by a fine of $100 for a first offense, with greater fines for subsequent offenses. (Kathryn Scott Osler, The Denver Post)

New Hampshire bills decriminalizing marijuana, expanding MMJ easily clear House

CONCORD, N.H. — The House voted overwhelmingly Wednesday in support of decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana and expanding access to medical marijuana for people suffering from chronic pain or post-traumatic stress disorder.

The bills won support from more than 300 of the chamber’s 400 members. Members also backed a bill allowing people to grow their own medical marijuana by a smaller margin. They’ll now move to the Senate, which has typically taken a stricter approach to marijuana-related legislation. The bills were voted on during a marathon House session with lawmakers voting on education policy, election law, LGBT rights and dozens of others.

The decriminalization bill, HB640, would remove criminal penalties for possessing one ounce or less of marijuana. New Hampshire is the only New England state without some form of decriminalization in place. Republican Gov. Chris Sununu said he would sign the bill if it reaches his desk, and advocates praised the House’s action.

“We hope their colleagues in the Senate will agree that our tax dollars and law enforcement officials’ time would be better spent addressing serious crimes,” said Matt Simon, New England political director for the Marijuana Policy Project.

Roughly 2,000 New Hampshire residents have access to medical marijuana since the state’s first dispensary opened in 2016. State law lists specific conditions — such as cancer, glaucoma or HIV — that qualify someone for medical marijuana use. House members passed two bills that add chronic pain and PTSD to the list of conditions. The chamber rejected adding “opioid addiction” to a qualifier for medical marijuana.

Supporters argued marijuana may be a more successful and less addictive treatment than opioids for chronic pain patients.