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A New Hampshire legislative panel rejected a bill to legalize recreational cannabis on Wednesday, likely dooming the measure from being passed by the state Senate. Under House Bill 1598, possession of cannabis by adults would be legalized and the state liquor commission would become the sole retailer of legal cannabis.
The bill was passed by the New Hampshire House of Representatives earlier this month by a vote of 169-156. But with a unanimous vote on Wednesday, the Senate Ways and Means Committee recommended that the bill be deemed “inexpedient to legislate,” according to a report from the New Hampshire Bulletin. That recommendation is expected to receive a vote by the full Senate in the upcoming weeks.
The bill would permit adults 21 and older to possess up to three-quarters of an ounce of cannabis, up to five grams of hashish and certain cannabis-infused products containing up to 300 milligrams of THC. The measure allows for the transfer of cannabis products, subject to the same limits, from one adult to another. The bill also permits adults to cultivate up to six cannabis plants at home.
State-Run Cannabis Shops
The New Hampshire Liquor Commission would be given the authority “to regulate and administer the cultivation, manufacture, testing, and retail sale of cannabis statewide,” according to the text of the bill. Cannabis would be sold at state-run stores, the same way alcohol is marketed in the state. The legislation also gives local governments the power to limit or ban cannabis businesses from locating in the cities and towns they govern.
All senators on the Ways and Means Committee voted to kill the bill, including those who support cannabis policy reform. Democratic Senator Cindy Rosenwald said “I’m overall concerned about the Liquor Commission’s ability to take on another responsibility,” noting that the legislation does not have restorative justice or social equity provisions.
“This bill is not fixable today,” she added.
Democratic state Senator Erin Hennessey said that a state-run monopoly on cannabis retailing would put cultivators at a disadvantage. She also expressed concerns over competition for the state’s existing medicinal cannabis operators and said her constituents were disappointed that the bill does not legalize cannabis edibles.
“I would love to be able to fix this bill, but there’s just too many questions that we’ve received that do not make it fixable for those who would like to see marijuana legalized in the state,” Hennessey said.
Other senators made their opposition to cannabis policy reform clear before the vote Wednesday, which was held on the 4/20 weed high holiday.
“I’m opposed to marijuana,” said Senator Lou D’Allesandro, a Democrat and former teacher. “I’ve dealt with it with students; I’ve dealt with it with constituents. It’s a problem. I think that the situation is quite clear: The availability of marijuana on, let’s call it the black market, is pervasive. It’s everywhere. And we must deal with the ramifications of it.”
“I think this is a poorly drafted bill,” D’Allesandro added. “The ability to actually implement this doesn’t exist.”
Republican state Senator Bob Giuda put his ignorance of the issue on full display by suggesting that cannabis leads to the use of more dangerous drugs, a theory that has been debunked time and time again.
“Why would we want to join the herd of introducing to our culture legalization of a substance that is unquestionably a gateway drug?” Giuda asked his colleagues on the committee.
Devon Chaffee, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of New Hampshire, spoke in favor of the bill, although he failed to persuade the lawmakers on the panel.
“I’m not going to sit here and tell you that this is the perfect bill,” Chaffee said, and added, “but what I will tell you is that we are done waiting for the perfect bill on this issue.”
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