CONCORD, N.H. (Jan. 16, 2023) – A bill introduced in the New Hampshire House would legalize the adult use of marijuana, and ban the state from participating in the enforcement of federal prohibition on the same.

House Majority Leader Rep. Jason Osborne (R), along with a bipartisan coalition of 10 legislators introduced House Bill 639 (HB639) on Jan. 12. Under the proposed law, adults 21 and over could possess, consume, display, grow, obtain, purchase, produce or transport up to 4 ounces of marijuana in plant form, 20 grams of cannabis concentrate, or 6 marijuana plants (with a limit of three mature plants.) The bill would also create a regulation and tax structure for the commercial cultivation and retail sale of marijuana.

Significantly, the proposed law would specifically ban state and local cooperation with the enforcement of federal marijuana laws that do not conform with the state law.

“No law enforcement officer employed by an agency that receives state or local government funds shall expend any state or local resources, including the officer’s time, to effect any arrest or seizure of cannabis, or conduct any investigation, on the sole basis of activity the officer believes to constitute a violation of federal law if the officer has reason to believe that such activity is in compliance with this chapter, nor shall any such officer expend any state or local resources, including the officer’s time, to provide any information or logistical support related to such activity to any federal law enforcement authority or prosecuting entity.”

Additionally, a coalition of five Democrats introduced House Bill 544 (HB544) on Jan. 11. This bill would also legalize the retail sale, possession, and use of cannabis for persons 21 years of age and older, with a regulatory scheme operated by the state liquor commission.


Under the federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA) passed in 1970, the federal government maintains a complete prohibition of marijuana. Of course, the federal government lacks any constitutional authority to ban or regulate cannabis 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.

New Hampshire legalized medical marijuana in 2013, removing a layer of laws prohibiting cannabis even though federal prohibition remains in effect. The passage of either bill would remove another layer of enforcement laws. This is significant because FBI statistics show that law enforcement makes approximately 99 of 100 marijuana arrests under state, not federal law. When states stop enforcing marijuana laws, they sweep away most 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.


Colorado, Washington state, Oregon and Alaska were the first states to legalize recreational cannabis, and California, Nevada, Maine and Massachusetts joined them after ballot initiatives in favor of legalization passed in November 2016. Michigan followed suit when voters legalized cannabis for general use in 2018. Vermont became the first state to legalize marijuana through a legislative act in 2018. Illinois followed suit in 2019. New Jersey, Montana and Arizona all legalized recreational marijuana through ballot measures in the 2020 election. In 2021, New YorkNew MexicoVirginia and Connecticut legalized marijuana through legislative action, and Rhode Island legalized cannabis for adult use in 2022. With Missouri and Maryland legalizing marijuana in November, there are now 37 states allowing cannabis for medical use, and 21 legalizing for adult recreational use.

The lesson here is pretty straightforward. As Tenth Amendment Center Executive Director Michael Boldin noted, “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.”


HB639 and HB544 were both referred to the House Commerce and Consumer Affairs Committee. The bills need to receive a hearing before moving forward in the legislative process. An “ought-to-pass” recommendation would significantly enhance the chance of either bill passing the full House.

Mike Maharrey

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