The New Hampshire House of Representatives on Tuesday gave its initial approval to a bill that would legalize recreational cannabis. The bipartisan measure, House Bill 639, was approved by lawmakers with a vote of 234-127, sending the proposal to the House Ways and Means Committee for further consideration.
If passed by the state legislature and signed into law,
The bill tasks the New Hampshire state Liquor Commission with regulating the commercial cultivation, processing, safety testing and distribution of cannabis. The measure also sets a 15% tax on cannabis cultivation, with revenue raised by the tax dedicated largely to the state’s pension liability and New Hampshire’s education trust fund. Cannabis taxes would also be used to fund substance misuse programs and
Supporters of the bill say the legislation would help ensure a safe supply of cannabis for the residents who use it and note that the measure includes provisions to give local governments input into the licensing of cannabis businesses in their jurisdictions. Proponents of legalizing cannabis also note that New Hampshire is surrounded by states that have legalized recreational marijuana. New Hampshire also shares a 58-mile border with
Republican state Rep. John Hunt invoked the New Hampshire state motto while expressing his support for legislation to legalize marijuana in the state.
“I want to make sure that New Hampshire citizens don’t have to go out of state to practice Live Free or Die,”
New Hampshire Cannabis Bill Has Bipartisan Support
Democratic Rep. Anita Burroughs said the bill is the most comprehensive plan for legalizing cannabis the legislature has produced to date, noting the bill was drafted with bipartisan support. She added that the Commerce Committee worked to develop a bill that could be supported by lawmakers from both parties, who found common ground on the issue to draft the legislation.
“We can now join other New England states that offer safe, regulated and a profitable cannabis industry to their citizens,” said Burroughs. The bill “allows us to do it the reasonable way, the responsible way, the innovative way and the bipartisan way.”
Although House Bill 639 was approved by a majority of nearly two to one, some lawmakers argued against its passage. Republican Rep. Lilli Walsh said that legalizing cannabis would be a mistake, adding that her colleagues should heed the opposition to the bill expressed by many of the state’s police chiefs. She also noted that many cannabis companies in states that have legalized marijuana are struggling to survive in a highly regulated business environment.
“The commercial model is collapsing as every state that legalized cannabis has an exploding black market where the prices are always lower,”
“Don’t be fooled by the addiction for profit industry that claims tax revenue will solve all our budget problems,” she added. “It will change our state in unimaginable ways none of which promote the common good.”
Although the bill received initial approval in the House of Representatives, the New Hampshire state Senate is less likely to approve the measure. If the proposal is approved by the state legislature’s upper chamber, Republican Gov. Chris Sununu has indicated he will veto the bill if it makes it to his desk.
House Bill 639 now heads to the House Ways and Means Committee for review. If the panel approves the proposal, it will return to the floor for another vote by the full House of Representatives.