NORML: New Hampshire: Senators Provide Initial Approval for Limited Marijuana Sales

[Update: Members of the Senate Finance Committee advanced HB 1633 back to the Senate floor on May 21 with amendments. The amendments include reducing possession limits from four ounces to two ounces, and also delaying adults from legally possessing cannabis until licensed sales begin.]

Members of the New Hampshire Senate gave initial approval last week to House-backed legislation (HB 1633) establishing a statewide regulated adult-use cannabis market. The vote marks the first time that a majority of the Senate have ever endorsed a legislative effort legalizing marijuana.

New Hampshire is the only New England state that prohibits adult-use cannabis sales. Although the possession of up to three-quarters of an ounce of cannabis is decriminalized (punishable by a fine only), possessing greater amounts is misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail. The pending legislation legalizes the possession of up to four ounces and/or 10 grams of concentrated cannabis.

Outgoing Republican Governor Chris Sununu has expressed willingness to sign legislation into law if it limits cannabis retailers to no more than 15 state-supervised franchisees. No other adult-use states regulates sales through state-run franchises. Under this plan, the state’s Liquor Commission will oversee the operation of retailers, which will each appear similar in appearance. Liquor is similarly sold in New Hampshire exclusively in state-run establishments.

Although the Senate’s version of the bill largely comports with the Governor’s plan, the House version does not. Historically, Gov. Sununu had been opposed to liberalizing the state’s marijuana laws. Leading Republican Gubernatorial candidates Kelly Ayotte and Chuck Morse have both said that, if elected, they would oppose loosening the state’s cannabis laws.

The measure awaits further debate by members of the Senate Finance Committee prior to once again returning to the Senate floor. If reapproved, members of the House will need to either agree with the Senate’s amendments, or the fate of the bill will be decided in a conference committee.

If enacted, New Hampshire will be the 25th state to regulate adult-use marijuana sales.


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