The New Hampshire House recently passed a bill that was previously retained, allowing comprehensive drug checking in the state, going beyond legalizing test strips for fentanyl and xylazine for public use.
The bill, legally titled HB 470, was retained by the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee after the policymakers’ last session due to the concern that drug traffickers could potentially take advantage of it. During the summer and fall, a subcommittee created amendments to the bill, receiving a passing vote of 12-8 from the full committee.
During the first legislative session of 2024, the House voted 212-161 and passed House Bill 470, and sent the bill to the Senate.
Last June, after being passed by both the House and the Senate, Gov. Chris Sununu signed HB 287 into law, decriminalizing fentanyl and xylazine test strips for the public, proposed by harm reduction advocates.
HB 470, sponsored by Rep. Davide Meuse, a Portsmouth Democrat, is pushing further in hopes of removing “drug-checking equipment” entirely from the state, categorizing it as paraphernalia. The bill would allow people to possess minimal amounts of drugs for the purpose of drug-checking without the threat of being criminally prosecuted.
Advocates of the bill believe that creating and expanding testing structures can address public health and safety concerns as laced drugs are frequently used unknowingly, in hopes that people can make better informed decisions before using the substance.
According to Meuse, the state is in a desperate position where every law pertaining to drug-checking technology developed must be passed because the epidemic of fatal drug overdose continues to grow at an overwhelming rate, putting lives at risk on a daily basis.
Not only is the state struggling to find a solution, but Meuse cited that there is a new fentanyl-like drug called nitazene making fatal appearances in New Hampshire. While there is no equipment that can test for the drug outside laboratory resources, he believes that testing technology will be developed for the general public.
With the HB 470 written and passed, people possessing less than 10 milligrams of a controlled substance with intentions of drug-checking will not be subject to prosecution. Those opposed are concerned that the bill is representing “state-sanctioned overdoses” and fear that there is “a shocking misunderstanding of the drug-use culture.”
During the legislative session, Rep. Jennifer Rhodes, a Winchester Republican, expressed that the legislation allows people to possess carfentanil, a veterinary tranquilizer for large animals, which is extremely potent and is capable of killing 500 people. According to the Drug Enforcement Agency, two milligrams of carfentanil is a lethal dose and is 100 times more potent than fentanyl.
Rhodes expressed that the purpose of the passage of the fentanyl and xylazine test strip bill was strictly for drugs to be tested. She claims HB 470 restricts police from enforcing drug laws and opens the door for drug abuse.
For HB 470 to be signed into law, the bill must pass the Senate and be signed by the governor.