New Hampshire lawmakers are currently engaged in a complex debate over the legalization of marijuana, with differing proposals causing an impasse. Let’s explore the challenges and potential paths forward for cannabis legalization in the state.
In recent discussions, the House Commerce and Consumer Affairs Committee in New Hampshire decided not to take action on a brand-new amendment that Chairman John Hunt had presented. Instead, they advanced an unrelated bill dealing with alcohol license payments. This move allows them to continue working on a separate measure specifically focused on creating a state-controlled cannabis market.
While key legislative deadlines approach in June, it is expected that the committee will resume their deliberations on the proposed cannabis legislation when they reconvene in September or October. The aim is to prepare for potential floor action in early 2024.
The primary point of contention revolves around contradictory language within the amendment. It appeared to offer three different routes for legal sales: state-run shops controlled by the Liquor Commission, state agency shops operated by privately licensed individuals, and dual licensing for existing medical cannabis dispensaries. However, the amendment also included explicit language stating that all adult-use sales would be operated by the government.
To resolve this contradiction, the committee chose not to amend the unrelated alcohol payments bill during their recent meeting. They decided to revisit the retained state-run legalization bill in the coming months. Some committee members even discussed the possibility of introducing a revised cannabis amendment to the liquor payments legislation or other low-stakes bills on the House floor in the near future. However, there are concerns about the amendment’s chances of passing in the Senate.
Industry stakeholders, including Matt Simon, the director of public and government relations at Prime Alternative Treatment Centers of New Hampshire, have proposed clarifications to address the conflicting language. Their aim is to establish a “three-legged stool” model that encompasses state-run stores, privately run agency stores, and existing medical cannabis dispensaries. However, the current amendment has left them uncertain whether it supports a three-legged stool approach or a one-legged stool.
This ongoing debate is further complicated by the recent backing of legalization through a state-run model by Governor Chris Sununu. While there is a sense of urgency to act on the reform proposal, skepticism exists regarding the regulatory concept. Some lawmakers prefer a more conventional approach that involves creating a private commercial market, as proposed in a separate bill that passed in the House but was defeated in the Senate earlier this month.
The coming months will be crucial in determining the direction of cannabis legalization in New Hampshire. Lawmakers will need to find common ground and resolve the conflicting proposals to create a regulatory framework that addresses the concerns of all stakeholders. As the state navigates this complex issue, it remains to be seen whether a consensus can be reached to bring legal cannabis to New Hampshire.