“It’s time” – Marijuana legalization bill heads back to House and Senate after committee agreements

Marijuana plants are displayed at a shop in San Francisco, Monday, March 20, 2023. 

Marijuana plants are displayed at a shop in San Francisco, Monday, March 20, 2023.  Jeff Chiu/AP file photo

By MICHAELA TOWFIGHI

Monitor staff

Published: 06-06-2024 4:19 PM

A marijuana bill is one step closer to Gov. Chris Sununu’s desk after lawmakers came to an agreement in a committee of conference Thursday.

If passed, New Hampshire would become the 25th state to legalize recreational marijuana.

House and Senate lawmakers agreed to a set of compromises to pass the final amended version of House Bill 1633.

“I’m signing this on a lot of angst and a lot of deliberation on my part,” said Rep. Anita Burroughs, a Glen Democrat. “However I think that it’s time that we legalize cannabis.”

The final proposal states that legalization will begin in 2026, existing medical marijuana businesses would have priority with licensing, passengers should not use cannabis in a vehicle and one ounce of marijuana will be decriminalized.

A 15 percent franchise fee will also be imposed on all monthly revenue from cannabis sales, which was something House members looked to lower to 12.5 percent.

The bill marks a rollercoaster session for marijuana policy that began last year after Sununu announced he would be open to signing a legalization bill days after a legalization proposal died in the Senate.

Sununu’s proposal — which Democrats said at the time was “a day late and a dollar short” — required state control of distribution, providing local authority to restrict sales and similar regulations to liquor sales, where no public messaging, advertising or commercials are allowed.

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The original proposal from the House introduced a number of these requirements — the state would initially open 15 stories, with the potential to increase licenses dependent on demand, controls on marketing, and requiring stores to be 1,000 feet away from schools.

This bill passed the House 239-136.

However, the Senate later amended a few provisions, including delaying legalization until 2026 and reducing the amount someone can legally possess from four ounces to two ounces.

The Senate passed the amended House Bill 14-10 on a bipartisan vote.

When the bill returned to the House, though, lawmakers voted to send it to a committee of conference to debate the changes.

Now, both chambers will have to pass the bill again before it goes to Sununu’s desk.

Senate President Jeb Bradley, a Wolfeboro Republican who has long opposed legalization, voted against the amendments in committee but said he would still sign it.

For organizations like the ACLU-NH, the committee’s agreement to pass an amended version of the bill is long awaited.

“Signing marijuana legalization into law would ensure that our state stops arresting Granite Staters for marijuana possession — around a thousand per year, and who are disproportionately Black,” said Devon Chaffee, executive director, in a statement.