CONCORD, N.H. (Jan. 30, 2023) – Last week, a New Hampshire House committee held a hearing on a bill that would end the drug war by the state of New Hampshire, and set the foundation for the people to nullify the federal war on drugs in practice and effect.

Rep. Matthew Santonastaso (R) introduced House Bill 581 (HB581) on Jan. 11. The legislation would repeal the entirety of the state’s controlled drug act effective July 1, 2025, and establish a committee to study the policy and statutory changes necessary to implement the repeal.

In effect, the bill would decriminalize all drugs in New Hampshire.

On Jan. 26, the House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee held a hearing on HB581. This is an important first step in the legislative process.


Under the federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA) passed in 1970, the federal government maintains complete prohibition of many drugs and heavily regulates others. Of course, the federal government lacks any constitutional authority to ban or regulate any drug 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.

The repeal of the New Hampshire controlled drug act would remove a massive layer of laws prohibiting the possession and use of many drugs in the state even though federal prohibition would remain in effect. As we’ve seen with marijuana and hemp, when states and localities stop enforcing laws banning a substance, the federal government finds it virtually impossible to maintain prohibition. For instance, FBI statistics show that law enforcement makes approximately 99 of 100 marijuana arrests under state, not federal law. By curtailing or ending state prohibition, states sweep part of the basis for 99 percent of marijuana arrests.

Furthermore, figures indicate it would take 40 percent of the DEA’s yearly annual 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 either. The lesson? The feds lack the resources to enforce marijuana prohibition without state and local assistance, and the same will likely hold true with other drugs.


HB581 needs to be brought up for a vote in the House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee. An “ought to pass” recommendation would significantly increase the bill’s chance for passage in the full House.

Mike Maharrey

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