State Senator Becky Whitley speaks in the New Hampshire State Senate as it debated adult use legalization on Thursday, April 28, 2022.

Legislative legalization of adult use cannabis in New Hampshire will have to wait another year after the State Senate killed a home grow bill last week 15-9.

“I think cannabis legalization advocates should pay a lot of attention to state Senate races this election season,” said medical cannabis advocate and Prime ATC spokesperson Matt Simon. “The 15 senators who voted to maintain cannabis prohibition will have a lot of explaining to do if they are seeking re-election. Fortunately, all 424 state legislators and the governor are up for reelection every two years in New Hampshire, and every election season presents opportunities to improve our position in the Senate.”

HB 629 would have legalized the possession of up to three quarter-ounces of flower and the ability to grow up to three mature and three immature plants at home at one time. 

The vote was not a shocker for advocates who previously worried about any legalization bills’ chances in the conservative senate. 

“We’re here in a rush to legalize a substance that has zero benefit to anyone,” said Senator Bob Giuda. “Marijuana produces paranoia and other detrimental psychological effects. There’s a reason that the military prohibits marijuana. it affects your ability to think, it affects your ability to react.” 

Senator Becky Whitley was one of the few voices in the Senate that spoke out in favor of legalization. 

“The passage of this legislation is an appropriate and necessary step for us to take in this state,” she said. “New Hampshire has become an island in New England with our overly burdensome regulations of cannabis that are out of sync with what the scientific, health, and social data shows, and most importantly with what New Hampshire voters want.”

There was also concern from other senators over the possibility of legalization providing children more access to cannabis. 

“Just like when you raise water up in a pool, everything floats, everything rises, all boats rise,” said state Senator William Gannon. “So to with usage. Every state we saw when there is more marijuana in a state, there is more childhood use.”

Opposition also came from the perspective that the federal prohibition of cannabis should negate any attempt to legalize on the state level. 

“Every state that has legalized marijuana has done so in defiance of federal law,” said senator Sharon Carson. “Their laws supersedes our laws.”

Senator Regina Birdsell noted that just because the rest of New England has legalized adult use cannabis, or in the case of Rhode Island appears to be on the verge to do so, does not mean that the Granite State should follow suit.

“If your friends jumped off a bridge, would you do it too? I don’t care what the rest of New England is doing,” said Birdsell. “We are New Hampshire, we should do it our way.” 

The vote came about a week after the state Senate defeated a bill that would have established an adult use market under a state monopoly mode for dispensaries similar to how New Hampshire regulates liquor sales in state-run stores.

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.

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Zack cut his journalistic teeth covering high school sports in the south before spending a decade covering local government, politics and the courts in the Boston, Massachusetts area. He's previously written...