New Hampshire House Advances Recreational Pot Legalization Bill

The New Hampshire House of Representatives last week approved a bill to legalize recreational marijuana as lawmakers revisit the issue of cannabis policy reform for the Granite State. The measure, House Bill 1633 (HB1633), was passed by the full House on Thursday by a vote of 239-14, although legislators who back cannabis legalization efforts offered only lukewarm support for the legislation.

Before being approved in the House, the bill was amended by the House Commerce and Consumer Affairs Committee. Republican state Representative Erica Layon, the sponsor of the bill, said that changes to the measure were made to satisfy the concerns of some lawmakers in the Senate.

“It’s a compromise,” Republican state Representative Erica Layon said in a statement to local media. “Every single person in a seat here can find a reason to vote against the amendment and vote against the bill. But the question is, do we have a net benefit to the state by passing this? I believe we do.”

If passed, the legislation would legalize cannabis for adults aged 21 and older, who would be permitted to possess up to four ounces of marijuana. The measure also legalizes the commercial production and sale of cannabis products under a tightly regulated model. The bill only allows for 15 retail cannabis dispensaries to operate in the state, which would be overseen by the New Hampshire Liquor Commission. 

Bill Fails To Meet Governor’s Conditions

Although the bill represents a relatively tightly regulated model for cannabis legalization, the legislation does not meet the requirements set by Republican Governor Chris Sununu for a recreational weed bill. After years of opposition to marijuana policy reform, he said last year that would support a bill that legalized adult-use pot in a tightly controlled manner.

Among the conditions that are included in the legislation are a cap on marijuana retailers and a ban on cannabis advertising. But the bill does not include the governor’s call for state-run dispensaries and a ban on lobbying by cannabis businesses, provisions that Layon said would expose the state to legal liabilities.

The amended bill also does not satisfy some proponents of cannabis policy reform. Democratic Representative Jonah Wheeler, a lawmaker who supports broader marijuana legalization, urged his colleagues to vote against the amended measure.

“This amendment will satisfy the hunger that we all feel – many of us feel – for legalization,” said state Representative Jonah Wheeler. “But it is a bologna sandwich that will leave us satisfied, but in a few hours, we will be hungry again because there was no nutrition there.”

Democratic state Representative Heath Howard noted that HB1633 has stiffer penalties for public consumption of cannabis.

“This bill not only keeps the current misdemeanor charges for people smoking in public, but it also increases the second-violation fines,” said Democratic state Representative Heath Howard.

Despite the tight regulations, some conservative lawmakers believe that the legalization bill advanced by the New Hampshire House goes too far.

“This bill does not reach the level of guardrails that we were looking for,” said Republican state Representative Tim Cahill.

But proponents of the legislation say they have attempted to build consensus among groups that have previously opposed efforts to legalize marijuana in New Hampshire.

“What we have tried to do this time is include industry, government, law enforcement– basically folks that have been traditionally prohibitionists, and I think there has been more listening and more consensus-building than ever before,” Tim Egan of the New Hampshire Cannabis Trade Association said in a statement.

HB 1633 has been referred to the House Finance Committee for consideration. If the committee approves the legislation, it will head back to the floor for another vote by the full House before being sent to the New Hampshire state Senate.

The post New Hampshire House Advances Recreational Pot Legalization Bill appeared first on High Times.


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