The New Hampshire legislature has a way of killing marijuana legalization bills. Over the last couple of years, almost all legislative initiative based on relaxing cannabis laws has not succeeded to gain the necessary committee votes to reach the floor. However, the year 2019 has turned out to be a turning point because a historic vote is giving more hope that things could change.
In 2018, a bill for adult use marijuana legalization slightly missed the House, only to halt and finally die in the Senate. The Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee is the main opposition to the 2018 legalization bill, and they are fighting to stop any vote on legalization. The committee is claiming to research the financial impact of legalization. Although a House voted against the committee’s move to kill the bill, it eventually failed to reach the Senate.
This year, the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee is partially supporting the bill to legalize, tax and regulate the sale and consumption of cannabis. Recently, the committee voted 10-9 to carry the law to the House for a final debate and vote. This was the only time in New Hampshire history that the committee was in favor of ending cannabis prohibition.
While lawmakers in New Hampshire start the process of legalization, the state is monitoring its whole region move to set up and control the commercial cannabis industry. New Hampshire is situated around states that have entirely legalized marijuana, and sharing borders with Canada, cannabis advocates say New Hampshire will not progress if cannabis remains prohibited.
As a result, state Rep. Renny Cushing, leader of the House Criminal Justice committee and chief sponsor of House Bill 481, is suggesting a system to merge New Hampshire into the highly rising regional cannabis economy.
The bill of Rep. Cushing would legalize a maximum of one ounce of cannabis for personal consumption and authorize indoor growing of a maximum of twelve plants per household. The bill will also tax marijuana at $30 per ounce. Experts suggest cannabis taxes generate between $20 million and $30 million in additional revenue for the state. Furthermore, the bill would establish a cannabis control commission to create rules and limitations to control the industry, with the addition of a testing facility. Due to the template in different legal cannabis states, the commission would be responsible for licensing growing, production, retail sales, transportation and testing of cannabis. Hence, Rep. Cushing says the general outline would be similar to the way alcohol is regulated in the state.
A key House committee was in favor of the framework. However, there are still more steps to reach. With its tax provisions, it will move through the House Ways and Means Committee. As a result, the slight win for HB 481 shows that some lawmakers are not in favor of the bill.
Gov. Chris Sununu of New Hampshire has promised to support the adult use bill if it passes in the legislature.