The New Hampshire House is once again considering adult-use cannabis legalization and, this time, lawmakers want to allow state-run liquor stores to serve the market.
“I think the state in the next couple years will realize that we can’t miss out on this market,” Rep. Tim Egan, D-Sugar Hill, told the news outlet, adding, “It’s a different model. It is sort of the first step.”
H.B. 1598 would authorize the New Hampshire Liquor Commission to regulate and oversee the cultivation, manufacturing, testing and sale of adult-use cannabis to adults 21 and older, according to the Concord Monitor.
The legislation would allow municipalities to limit or prohibit adult-use cannabis businesses within their jurisdictions, the news outlet reported.
The bill would direct 50% of the tax revenue generated from adult-use sales to offset municipalities’ contributions to the statewide education property tax, while 30% would help pay off the state’s retirement system debt, 10% would go to drug and alcohol treatment programs, and the rest of the funds would be funneled to first responders and behavioral health programs, according to the Concord Monitor.
The New Hampshire House voted 169-156 March 31 to pass H.B. 1598, which now heads to the Senate for consideration.
The legislation, which supporters say could appeal to a skeptical Senate and Gov. Chris Sununu, as well as bring new revenue to the state, has drawn criticism from cannabis industry stakeholders, the Concord Monitor reported.
“It is past time for New Hampshire to stop being an island of prohibition,” Karen O’Keefe, director of state policies for the Marijuana Policy Project, wrote in testimony to lawmakers, according to the news outlet. “But it’s important that the bill to replace prohibition actually works.”
O’Keefe and other advocates have argued that a state-run model would be “overly controlling and unworkable,” the Concord Monitor reported, and have also pushed back on the provision that prohibits cannabis edibles.
Sununu, however, applauded lawmakers’ efforts during a March 23 press conference, according to the news outlet.
“I think the original bill was designed very well and I always give Daryl Abbas from Salem a lot of credit,” Sununu said. “He worked very hard to design the right bill. If we’re ever going to do it, that’s probably the right structure to have. But at the end of the day, it’s got to be about the results.”
A separate adult-use legalization bill, H.B. 629, cleared the New Hampshire House Jan. 6. This proposal, sponsored by Carol McGuire, R-Epsom, would allow adults to possess up to three-fourths of an ounce of cannabis and cultivate up to six plants at home, but would not set up a commercial market in the state.
House lawmakers approved a similar proposal in 2020 that ultimately stalled in the Senate.
A broader bill in 2019 would have created a regulated and taxed retail market for adult-use cannabis sales, but that legislation also died in the Senate.