The next legislative session in New Hampshire looks like it will be a pivotal one for marijuana legalization in the state.
In recent days, several lawmakers have announced separate cannabis reform measures, including one pre-filed by a prominent Republican committee chairman.
In total, six cannabis legalization measures have been introduced for 2022. Of those, three aim to put a marijuana legalization proposal before voters on the 2022 ballot.
Another is sponsored by Rep. Daryl Abbas (R), chairman of the House Criminal Justice and Public Safety committee, who has opposed previous cannabis reform bills but said he’d consider the move if it was done “correctly.”
His proposal – HB 1598 – would legalize the possession and purchase of up to four ounces of marijuana for adults 21 and older so long as it is sourced from state-run dispensaries under the responsibility of the New Hampshire Liquor Commission.
Marijuana reform advocates are unhappy about several aspects of Abbas’ bill, such as the continued prohibition on growing cannabis at home for personal use. It also lacks provisions that would facilitate expungements of prior marijuana convictions. Indeed, the measure explicitly states that those with prior state or federal felony convictions concerning controlled substances, including cannabis, would be disqualified from working in the legal marijuana industry.
Marijuana sales tax revenues would initially cover the program’s administrative costs. After that, revenues would go towards “evidence-based, voluntary programs for substance misuse-related education, prevention, treatment, and recovery,” as well as funding law enforcement and public safety agencies.
Meanwhile, three pre-filed bills submitted by Reps. Andrew Prout (R), Joshua Adjutant (D) and Renny Cushing (D), would put a marijuana legalization proposal on this year’s ballot.
For any proposed constitutional amendments to succeed, it must first command a 60 percent supermajority vote in each legislative chamber. With the GOP currently in control of the legislature, this will be difficult but it would allow lawmakers that support cannabis reform to avoid a potential veto from Gov. Chris Sununu (R ) – a staunch opponent of legalization.
The marijuana legalization proposals put forward by each of the three lawmakers are as follows:
“All adults have the right to possess, use, and cultivate cannabis; subject to regulations or taxes on commercial activity as the general court may impose.”
“The general court of this state shall make no law infringing on the right to the use, sale, or cultivation of cannabis for persons over 18 years of age.”
“All adults shall have the right to possess cannabis intended for their personal consumption.”
If legislators approve any of the proposals, it must then receive 67 percent of the public vote to pass. This should prove easier to achieve than in the legislature, with recent polling indicating that three-quarters of New Hampshire voters are in favor of the reform.
Reps. Stacie-Marie Laughton (D) and Timothy Egan have also pre-filed separate marijuana legalization bills, while a bill to legalize cannabis that passed the House but faltered in a Senate committee last session is set to be revived.