A New Hampshire House committee voted in favor of an amended bill that would establish a state-run adult-use cannabis market. Were the proposed legislation to be enacted into law, New Hampshire would be the first state to have government-run recreational marijuana retailers, managed by the State Liquor Commission.
The measure – HB 1598 – had already cleared the House in a 235-to-119 vote but needed to go back to the House Ways and Means Committee due to its economic provisions. Should the House approve it for the second time with the amendments, it will then head to the Senate.
The House Ways and Means Committee adopted an amendment to remove a proposed 15-license limit on commercial cannabis cultivators, which is a move welcomed by industry stakeholders. However, many currently operating in New Hampshire’s legal medical cannabis market still feel the proposed bill is unnecessarily restrictive and threatens to stymie growth in the industry.
The amended bill, for instance, would prohibit cannabis-infused edibles even though medical marijuana patients are allowed to access such products.
Joseph Mollica, chair of the New Hampshire Liquor Commission, said restrictions on edibles would affect the industry’s bottom line, and that this hadn’t been included in forecasts for the state’s legal cannabis market which estimates annual revenues of $50 million within three years.
“Should edibles not be allowed, you should subtract that from the total revenue projection,” Mollica said, claiming that edibles account for around 35-40 percent of retail cannabis sales.
Home cannabis cultivation would also be prohibited under the measure, but adults 21 and older could purchase and possess up to four ounces of marijuana flower or its equivalent in concentrates.
The State Liquor Commission would have a deadline of October 1 by which it must finalize the rules for “the registration and regulation of cannabis establishments and cannabis cultivation facilities.”
It would then have a further two months to establish regulations on other aspects of the cannabis industry, such as advertising, labeling, THC limits, and civil penalties.
While there is no proposed cap on the number of state-run dispensaries, the legislation calls for ten such stores in the first three years, with the possibility to expand should there be demand.
Marijuana reform advocates in New Hampshire are pleased to see progress on cannabis legalization in the state after years of intransigence in GOP-controlled legislature. However, of the six marijuana legalization bills unveiled at the start of the 2022 session, only the most restrictive legislation has advanced.
It is this legislation – HB 1598 – that surprisingly has the backing of Gov. Chris Sununu (R ), who has typically taken a negative view on reforming New Hampshire’s cannabis laws. He recently described himself as “not fully committal” in his opposition to legalizing recreational marijuana and said the measure to have state-run adult-use dispensaries in New Hampshire as “the right bill and the right structure.”
“So if you are ever going to do it, do that bill,” he added.
The Senate majority and minority leaders are not so enthused however. Both have said that now is not the time to legalize marijuana for adult-use, which raises doubts that the bill would make it to the Senate floor if it manages to clear the House again.