Once again, it appears that adult use legalization in New Hampshire is officially dead for the year. The state’s Senate resoundly rejected, 15-9, the House’s attempt to insert legalized possession and home growing into a Senate bill related to escaped prisoners on May 12.
“The facts about legalization of marijuana in every single state that has tried it are patently clear,” said Sen. Bob Giuda (R). “There’s nothing good about this. It has never met the revenue projections and expectations that have been forecast. It has, however, significantly increased the problems with the minority communities and those that are poor who are preyed upon by these pot pushers.”
Sen. Rebecca Whitley (D), who supported the earlier effort to legalize home grow, reiterated the point that legal cannabis is incredibly popular in the state and that failure to recognize that popularity could have electoral consequences.
“This bill gives us another opportunity to listen to the vast majority of our constituents. I think ignoring this issue is to our detriment, especially in an election year,” said Whitley. “This is an issue that young people care deeply about and we have a problem in New Hampshire of attracting young people to come to our state to start families and to participate in our work force. We need to start listening to these young people.”
Sen. Tom Sherman (D) argued that regardless of its legal status, New Hampshire residents are still obtaining and using cannabis outside of the state’s medical cannabis program.
“We’re surrounded on all sides by states where it’s legal,” he said.
Giuda also pushed back on the notion that legalization would help attract younger people into the state’s aging workforce.
“A robust workforce is not a stoned workforce,” he said. “I have no problem proclaiming that our state is a clean state.”
Sen. Sharon Carson (R), who previously opposed the home grow bill, said that she expects legalization to continue to be a topic of discussion in the legislature.
“The problem is this bill was not ready to move forward. There are a lot of issues and a lot of problems with this bill,” she said. “I think we would be doing a great disservice to all people of the State of New Hampshire whether you want to smoke or you don’t want to smoke it or eat it or whatever you want to do with it.”
Activists are now looking toward November when the entire State Senate is up for reelection, according to Daryl Eames, founder of the New Hampshire Cannabis Association.
“We now look to educating our residents about which legislators and candidates are fighting for the end of prohibition in the upcoming election,” said Eames in response to the first death of a home grow legislative attempt in early April. “We anticipate some changes in the Senate composition and will have to see how that shakes out. In the meantime, we are building a team to write a bill for the next session. The goal of which is to create a legal, responsible adult use market in the state.”
Since the beginning of the year, several bills involving cannabis failed to pass the Senate, including three competing efforts to send legalization to the voters by way of state constitutional amendment.
The previous state-run dispensary bill, HB 1598, narrowly passed the state House amid concerns from both opponents to legalization and advocates who worried that the state-run model would undercut the state’s medical cannabis program. The Senate’s Ways and Means Committee then killed the bill in a unanimous 5-0 vote on April 21.
Two weeks later, the New Hampshire House resurrected the home grow bill by inserting its language onto a Senate bill that clarified penalties for escaped convicts, leading to the 15-9 vote in the Senate on May 12, effectively shutting out cannabis legalization for the rest of the year.