New Hampshire House committee passes cannabis legalization bill

The Granite State may be the next in line to legalize recreational marijuana use. New Hampshire’s legalization bill, HB 481, passed with a 10-9 vote in the state’s House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee.

HB 481, sponsored by state Representative Renny Cushing, is headed to the House of Representative, where pot politicos are anticipating a “floor fight” over the bill.

New Hampshire has something of a checkered cannabis legalization past. The state House of Representatives has voted to pass legalization bills on two separate occasions, once in 2014 and then again in 2018, but this is the first time that a legislative committee has ever officially taken a pro stance on pot.

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In an interview with New Hampshire Public Radio, Cushing is excited for the potential end of prohibition in New Hampshire.

“It was a historic vote,” Cushing said. “For the first time in history, the House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee voted to recommend that we put an end to the prohibition of cannabis and enact a law to provide for the legalization, regulation, and taxation.”

What would HB 481 do if it passes?

Considering that ten other states have passed legalization bills, New Hampshire has a plethora of pot bills from which to borrow language and ideas.

HB 481 would legalize anyone 21 or older to possess up to an ounce of cannabis, five grams of cannabis, and infused products with up to 500 milligrams of THC outside of their home.

Granite Staters could also cultivate up to six cannabis plants, of which three are allowed to be mature. There is a limit of 12 plants per household, with only six having reached maturity. Possession and home cultivation would be legal approximately two months after the bill passes if it passes.

The bill also addresses penalties, regulations, the licensing of cannabis businesses, taxation, and the timeline for the implementation of the legislation. Should the bill pass as written, the first retail licenses for cannabis businesses would be issued by November 30, 2020.

HB 481 would establish a $30 per ounce sales tax on all cannabis flowers. This tax structure means that the bill will have to be sent to the Ways and Means Committee for further review.

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Additionally, the bill would establish a cannabis control commission which would establish regulations for cannabis retail and manufacturing organizations. Public consumption of cannabis would remain banned and would be subject to a $100 fine on the first offense.

N.H. marijuana legalization bill clears House Criminal Justice committee

— Renny Cushing (@rennycushing) February 22, 2019

New Hampshire is finally joining the neighborhood

All three of New Hampshire’s neighboring states have legalized recreational marijuana use. Additionally, the Granite State’s friendly neighbors to the north, Canada, have also ended the prohibition on pot.

When New Hampshire attempted to legalize marijuana through the legislative process back in 2018, legalization enjoyed a popular political stance. According to a University of New Hampshire poll conducted at that time, residents supported legalization by a more than two-to-one margin.

Unfortunately, New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu is opposed to the legalization of cannabis; however, House Speaker Steve Shurtleff has previously stated that he believes that there are enough votes in the House, and possibly even the Senate, to override a potential veto.

New England political director of the Marijuana Policy Project, Matt Simon, stated in a press release that it’s about time New Hampshire caught up with their neighbors’ policies.

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“We applaud the committee for recognizing that marijuana prohibition is an outdated and increasingly unpopular policy that has failed to accomplish its public health and safety objectives,” Simon said. “It’s time for New Hampshire to adopt a more sensible system in which cannabis is legal for adults 21 and older and regulated in order to protect consumers and the public.”

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