It appears that New Hampshire will have to wait at least another year for cannabis legalization.
Local television station WMUR reports that “a bipartisan majority of state senators shot down a proposal that would have made legal the possession of up to three-fourths of an ounce of marijuana and cannabis-infused products with no more than 300 milligrams of THC.”
Republicans, who hold the majority in the New Hampshire state legislature, said that the proposed legalization measure was flawed.
“The problem with this amendment, for those of you who want to legalize marijuana, you haven’t done it right,” said state Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley, as quoted by WMUR. “You don’t have any structure for selling it. You don’t have any upper limits for THC. The laws for alcohol and marijuana proposed in this amendment for under age 21 are problematic.”
Supporters of the measure, however, argued that the proposal was narrow in scope, and would help New Hampshire compete with bordering states such as Massachusetts, where adult-use cannabis sales are legal.
“This is a very limited step where I think we can consider all of the data that’s in front of us,” said Democratic state Sen. Rebecca Perkins Kwoka, as quoted by WMUR. “I think we can listen to our constituents and make sure we’re following the science.”
Persistent Legalization Obstacles in New Hampshire
The defeat in the state Senate does not come as a total surprise. A different legalization bill passed in the GOP-controlled state House of Representatives earlier this month, but the measure always faced an uphill climb in the other chamber.
“I think the Senate has always opposed legalizing marijuana and I think that’s still the same right now,” state Senate President Chuck Morse told New Hampshire Public Radio earlier this month. “I think there is a concept here that people want to try to understand.”
One of the core tenets of that proposal would have made the New Hampshire state liquor commission the singular authority “to regulate and administer the cultivation, manufacture, testing, and retail sale of cannabis statewide.”
As such, cannabis would have been sold at New Hampshire’s state-run liquor stores. But even some Democrats were not on board with that.
“Whether the state should be in the business of marijuana is something a lot of us have hesitancy about,” Donna Soucy, the Democratic leader in the state Senate, told New Hampshire Public Radio.
That bill was shot down earlier this month by a committee in the state Senate.
The cannabis bill that was defeated last week would have only legalized limited possession and home cultivation for adults aged 21 and older in the state. Democrats and legalization advocates have pointed to the robust support for the policy in the state.
“New Hampshire has become an island in New England, with our overly burdensome regulations of cannabis that are out of sync with what the scientific health and social data says,” Democratic state Sen. Becky Whitley said last week, as quoted by the New Hampshire Bulletin. “And most importantly, with what New Hampshire voters want.”
Whitley also highlighted the racial disparity in enforcement of current cannabis laws.
“13.9 times: That’s the number of times that Black people are more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession when compared to white people in Manchester, despite both groups using marijuana at roughly the same rate,” Whitley said.
It was also reported that some opponents turned out to lobby lawmakers over the legalization proposal last week, noting that “New Hampshire law enforcement representatives worked ahead of the vote to dissuade senators from voting yes.”
New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu, a Republican, has expressed ambivalence on the issue, saying recently that he believes legalization in the state might be “inevitable.”