New Hampshire Senate defeats two marijuana legalization bills passed by the House

The New Hampshire Senate on Thursday rejected two bills passed by the House that would have legalized marijuana: one to simply allow possession and home cultivation for adults with no sales component and the other to create a market state-run cannabis.

Representative Carol McGuire’s (R) non-commercial legislation was defeated by a 9-15 vote after members debated and rejected an amendment that would have removed the home cultivation option and added a THC limit per se for impaired driving.

Rep. Daryl Abbas (R)’s other bill that would have created an adult market operated by the state Liquor Commission was later voted down in a voice vote. He was rejected by a Senate committee earlier this month, but he still advanced to the floor under the rules of the legislature.

The actions come weeks after McGuire’s internal growth bill was submitted to the Senate Judiciary Committee with a recommendation for passage. Although the House has repeatedly passed legalization measures, this was the first time a Senate panel had approved such a proposal.

Rather than enacting the policy change, however, the bill was soundly thrown to the ground. Members deemed it “untimely to legislate” in a follow-up vote, meaning he is officially killed for the session.

Ahead of the vote on the non-commercial legalization measure on Thursday, Sen. Becky Whitley (D) said “passing this legislation is an appropriate and necessary step that we need to take as a state.”

New Hampshire has “become an island” in the region when it comes to cannabis policy,” she said.

“This bill will bring us a little closer to our neighbors and with a more modern understanding of cannabis,” Whitley said, adding that the reform “will benefit our citizens and ease an unnecessary burden on our enforcement community.” of the law”.

“New Hampshire voters want us to make this change, and it’s time to make it,” she said. “The so-called war on marijuana didn’t work.”

But opponents have expressed serious concerns about the message that ending the criminalization of cannabis for adults would send to children and how the policy could impact road safety.

Proponents were generally in favor of taking the interim measure to legalize possession and home cultivation for adults. Meanwhile, many were wary of the competing move to create a state monopoly for cannabis sales in the state.

Here’s What McGuire’s Non-Commercial Marijuana Legalization invoice already done:

Adults 21 and older could possess up to three-quarters of an ounce of cannabis for personal use.

They could additionally grow up to six plants – only three of which could be mature – in a safe place, out of sight of other properties.

Cannabis donation of up to three-quarters of an ounce of marijuana or up to three immature plants would be permitted between adults 21 and older.

Processing marijuana into cannabis-infused products, including edibles and tinctures, would also be permitted.

Public consumption would be prohibited and subject to a civil fine of $100.

Adults who violate cultivation rules, such as growing plants visible to other properties, would be subject to a maximum fine of $750.

The bill as written was nearly identical to an earlier version that also passed the Democratic-controlled House in 2020, but was defeated in the Senate at committee stage.

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“Senators who voted to continue punishing adults for cannabis possession are going to have a lot to explain this summer and fall when they seek re-election,” said Matt Simon, director of public and government relations for Prime Alternative Treatment Centers of NH, said Marijuana Moment.

As it stands, possessing up to three-quarters of an ounce of marijuana is decriminalized in New Hampshire, punishable by a $100 fine for a first offense and escalating for subsequent offenses. However, home cultivation remains prohibited, even for patients with medical cannabis.

Meanwhile, when it comes to the state-run marijuana bill, advocates and stakeholders have raised concerns about the idea of ​​the proposed model, which would be unlike any other cannabis market currently. in place in other states.

But notably, the legislation has won praise from Governor Chris Sununu (R), who, despite being a historically outspoken opponent of legalizing adult use, recently said reform ‘may be inevitable’ in the State and that HB 1598 is “the right craftsmanship and the right structure.

“So if you ever do, do this bill,” he said.

The governor added in a recent separate interview that he is “not fully committed” to his longstanding opposition to legalization.

Nearly three out of four New Hampshire voters support legalizing marijuana, according to a recent poll. And bipartisan majorities also say they favor selling cannabis through a state-run model.

Reform proponents have spent years working with the GOP-controlled legislature to craft thoughtful legislation aimed at ending the criminalization of cannabis, though differing views and resistance from Republican leaders have consistently derailed reform.

Meanwhile, three lawmakers—Reps. Joshua Adjutant (D), Renny Cushing (D) and Andrew Prout (R) – each filed separate bills to put marijuana legalization on the state’s 2022 ballot. Cushing, who served as the House Democratic leader, died recently after a battle with cancer.

The House rejected Prout’s proposed constitutional amendment and voted to table the other two measures.

To advance any of the proposed constitutional amendments would have required a 60% supermajority vote in both houses. Had any of the constitutional amendments been enacted, it would have allowed lawmakers to avoid a likely veto on the Sununu anti-legalization statutory reform legislation.

If lawmakers had ultimately decided to put a constitutional amendment to legalize cannabis on the ballot, then 67% of voters would have had to vote in favor of it. A recent poll indicates residents are ready for reform, with three out of four New Hampshire residents supporting legalization.

The governor’s opposition to legalizing adult use has been a constant source of contention. However, advocates were happy that he at least signed a bill in August adding opioid use disorder as a qualifying condition for the state’s medical cannabis program and also allowing patients to use it. access to dispensaries.

In 2019, lawmakers sent a medical cannabis home cultivation bill to Sununu’s office, but he vetoed it.

The State House separately introduced a bill last month that would have decriminalized possession of psilocybin mushrooms.

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Photo courtesy of Mike Latimer.

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