New Hampshire House Passes Bill for Recreational Cannabis Legalization

In a significant move towards cannabis policy reform, the New Hampshire House of Representatives has voted to advance a bill aiming to legalize recreational marijuana. House Bill 1633 (HB1633) secured a resounding approval from the full House, with a vote count of 239-14. However, proponents of cannabis legalization within the legislature have expressed cautious support for the proposed legislation.

The bill underwent amendments by the House Commerce and Consumer Affairs Committee before its passage. Republican state Representative Erica Layon, the bill’s sponsor, acknowledged that modifications were made to address concerns raised by some Senate members.

Describing the bill as a compromise, Layon emphasized its potential benefits for the state. “Every single person in a seat here can find a reason to vote against the amendment and vote against the bill. But the question is, do we have a net benefit to the state by passing this? I believe we do,” Layon stated.

HB1633 proposes to legalize recreational cannabis for adults aged 21 and older, allowing them to possess up to four ounces of marijuana. The bill also outlines regulations for the commercial production and sale of cannabis products through a tightly controlled framework. It stipulates the operation of only 15 retail cannabis dispensaries, overseen by the New Hampshire Liquor Commission.

However, the bill does not align entirely with the conditions outlined by Republican Governor Chris Sununu for supporting a recreational marijuana bill. While it includes measures such as capping marijuana retailers and banning cannabis advertising, it lacks provisions like state-run dispensaries and a ban on lobbying by cannabis businesses, which Layon argued could pose legal risks for the state.

Despite the amendments, some advocates for broader cannabis policy reform have voiced dissatisfaction with HB1633. Democratic Representative Jonah Wheeler criticized the bill, likening it to a “bologna sandwich” lacking substantial benefits. Additionally, Democratic Representative Heath Howard highlighted the bill’s stricter penalties for public cannabis consumption.

Notably, some conservative lawmakers believe the bill oversteps boundaries. Republican state Representative Tim Cahill remarked that the proposed legislation lacks sufficient guardrails.

Nevertheless, proponents of HB1633 have emphasized their efforts to build consensus among various stakeholders, including traditionally anti-legalization groups. Tim Egan of the New Hampshire Cannabis Trade Association highlighted the inclusive approach taken in drafting the bill.

HB1633 now awaits review by the House Finance Committee. If approved, it will undergo another vote by the full House before advancing to the New Hampshire state Senate for further consideration.


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