Legalization advocates in New Hampshire are once again wondering if this will be the year adult-use cannabis comes to the Granite State. In the first week of the year, legislators have already approved one and denied another of several pending cannabis-related bills, though it remains to be seen if any can survive the State Senate or the governor’s veto.
“The House has consistently supported legalization for years regardless of which party holds the majority,” said Matt Simon, spokesperson for Prime ATC, one of the three companies currently authorized to operate medical dispensaries in the state. “Unfortunately, the Senate has consistently rejected these efforts. It will be interesting to see if anything changes in 2022, but there isn’t a lot of optimism based on advocates’ previous experiences with the Senate.”
The Republican-led House approved House Bill 629 on Jan. 6, 241-113. The bill legalized recreational possession of cannabis up to 3/4 oz., concentrates with no more than 300mg of THC and up to six plants. The bill does not legalize sales, though it does allow for the transfer of cannabis and cannabis products between adults.
The House’s Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee (CJPS) retained the bill in committee last year for interim study, but the House overrode the committee.
The day before, the House also voted against HB 237, which would have legalized adult-use cannabis sales.
“These votes will not preclude the House in any way from considering the other legalization bills and constitutional amendments that have been filed for 2022,” said Simon. “Public hearings on 2022 bills will likely be scheduled soon in the House CJPS Committee.”
Additional cannabis-related bills remain in committee, which would normally indicate they stalled out, but recent activity from the House shows that there is a possibility that they will be brought to the floor for a vote.
In addition to bills currently held in committee, representatives filed three additional cannabis bills ahead of the 2022 session.
These include, HB 1348, which would also legalize possession and home cultivation for those 21 and older, HB 1468 which would legalize possession for those 18 and older, and HB 1598 which would allow the state to create a monopoly on commercial cannabis sales similar to how the state regulates liquor through state-run stores.
“Licensed businesses would produce and manufacture cannabis, which could only be sold in state-run stores,” said Simon. “Home cultivation would remain a felony offense.”
The legislature has previously sent legalization bills to the Senate with mixed success. The last time a bill survived the Senate, Republican Governor Chris Sununu vetoed it. Sununu recently announced that he was not planning to run for reelection in November 2022, making this his last year in office.
If the legalization effort fails to land on the governor’s desk, the legislature could approve a proposed constitutional amendment into a ballot question for next fall, without formally taking a stance on legalization.
Three proposed amendments to the state’s constitution could effectively legalize recreational cannabis, with voter approval. The first would legalize possession of cannabis for personal consumption, the second would ban the state from making any “law infringing on the right to the use, sale, or cultivation of cannabis,” while the third would legalize adult-use and allow the regulation of cannabis businesses.
The three competing Constitutional Amendment Concurrent Resolutions would need 60% approval from the House and Senate before they were put before voters in November.