Efforts to legalize Pot in NH dead this year in state Legislature

Efforts to legalize Pot in NH dead this year in state Legislature

New Hampshire House Tables Cannabis Legalization Bill Amid Health and Regulatory Concerns.

Efforts to legalize marijuana went up in smoke in the N.H. House on Thursday, the state Legislature's last day of voting before its summer break.

Representatives decided, 178-173, to table, or remove from further consideration this year, House Bill 1633, which would have allowed adult recreational use of cannabis and permitted its sale at 15 stores across the state.

Proponents designed the bill to win the approval of Republican Gov. Chris Sununu, who said he would sign a legalization bill with certain provisions, including strong controls over sales and marketing as well as a limited number of stores.

He won't get that chance now. The four-term governor is not seeking reelection.

Some lawmakers contended the measure posed a serious threat to public health. Others said they support legalization in concept but objected to the terms of this particular legislation.

It will now be back to the drawing board for those who want to legalize the drug in New Hampshire, as has been done in surrounding states. Lawmakers could take up the measure next year.

Possession of three-quarters of an ounce or less of marijuana in the state is a violation-level offense, similar to a traffic ticket.

HB 1633 would have increased that amount to an ounce within 60 days of its passage. And, beginning in 2026, it would have allowed the retail outlets to open and removed all penalties for adult possession of up to two ounces of the drug.

The bill would have made the state a marijuana franchiser and the 15 stores franchisees.

Some lawmakers objected to that model, instead saying that there should be wider opportunities for entrepreneurs. Others objected to the nearly two-year implementation delay built into the legislation. Still others didn’t care for the 15 percent tax that would be imposed on the stores’ gross revenues.

Rep. Nick Germana, D-Keene, said before the House considered the bill Thursday that he supports legalization in concept, but didn’t like certain restrictive provisions in this bill, including a ban on people growing marijuana in their own homes.

He also felt the bill should have allowed people who use medicinal marijuana to buy the drug tax free at the proposed retail outlets.

“I understand the sausage-making process, and you have to be willing to compromise,” Germana said. “The argument that you kind of hear all the time is that, ‘Well you can’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.’

“I agree with that, but there is a moment when you cross a line where you don’t feel like it’s good anymore.”

Various versions of the bill were proposed this legislative session. The final measure emerged from a committee of conference composed of lawmakers from the House and the Senate.

The Senate voted, 14-10, in favor of the bill on Thursday.

One of those who voted against it was Sen. Bill Gannon, R-Sandown. He said legalization would lead to increased use of the drug by young people, medical dangers for the population at large as well as more traffic accidents.

“Is this bill going to make New Hampshire a better place to live, work and raise a family?” he asked. “I don’t think so.”

Proponents said the measure would actually have made New Hampshire safer by better regulating a drug that is already prevalent throughout the state.

Devon Chaffee, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of New Hampshire, said that by not passing the bill, representatives acted against the preferences of their constituencies. Public opinion polls have shown broad support for legalization.

“Pushing legalization off yet another year makes clear that lawmakers are willing to ignore the will of their own constituents and are okay with continuing to needlessly ensnare over 1,000 people — disproportionately Black people — in New Hampshire’s criminal justice system every year,” she said in a written statement.

“Our state must stop its practice of arresting Granite Staters for marijuana possession at the cost of millions of dollars to taxpayers, and for something that nearly three-quarters of Granite Staters believe should be legal.”

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Region: New Hampshire

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