New Hampshire Lawmakers Prepare Legalization Bill
New Hampshire Public Radio reports that the “top Republican and Democrat in New Hampshire’s House of Representatives are teaming up to introduce a bill to legalize the possession and retail sale of marijuana in New Hampshire.”
The GOP controls the lower chamber, and the top Republican, House Majority Leader Jason Osborne, will collaborate with House Democratic Leader Matt Wilhelm to ensure that the so-called “Live Free or Die State” actually lives up to its motto.
Osborne and Wilhelm are hoping that their colleagues in the state Senate, which is also controlled by Republicans, will get on board this time around.
The state House of Representatives approved a bill that would have legalized pot in April, but the measure was subsequently shot down in the state Senate.
“The House has long stood united in finding a pathway to getting this done for Granite Staters,” Osborne said, as quoted by New Hampshire Public Radio. “With any luck, the Senate will come around to supporting the will of the vast majority of New Hampshire citizens.”
Wilhelm echoed that, saying that legalization of adult possession of small amounts of cannabis is the right thing to do for New Hampshire and we must get it done in 2023.”
As the Concord Monitor noted, New Hampshire stands as an outlier in the region with its status as “the lone state in New England that has yet to legalize marijuana.”
New Hampshire Legal Limit
According to the outlet, the bill, which has not yet been formally introduced, “would allow adults over the age of 21 to possess up to four ounces of cannabis, protect for cultivation both at home and through state-licensed private sites, enable retail sales and establish a state regulatory and licensing body.”
“This proposal to legalize cannabis for adults in New Hampshire brings together diverse nonpartisan perspectives. This bill brings a solution to pay off our pension liability, reduce property taxes, provide additional resources for law enforcement, while restricting minors from accessing cannabis,” Osborne said in a statement, as quoted by the Concord Monitor.
Osborne and Wilhelm will have other potential impediments beyond the state Senate if they are to get legalization passed.
Republican Gov. Chris Sununu, who was elected to a fourth term in last month’s election, has long expressed his opposition to cannabis legalization, which he has said could exacerbate the existing crisis surrounding fentanyl abuse.
“I’ve always said now’s not the time. Every state does it very different. I’ve always wanted to see what works and what doesn’t,” Sununu said in a gubernatorial debate this fall, as quoted by the Concord Monitor. “There may be a way to do it but given that we are facing an opioid crisis, given that we still don’t know what works with other states, it could be inevitable, I get it, but you got to be patient about how you do it and the steps that are best for New Hampshire.”
Advocates such as Osborne and Wilhelm contend that the state is being left behind in an era of legalization, and that prohibition continues to disproportionately affect people of color.
New Hampshire Public Radio, citing data from the American Civil Liberties Union, reported that “1,120 people were charged with marijuana possession in New Hampshire in 2021 alone,” with the data indicating that “Black people are far more likely to be arrested on marijuana charges than white people, even though both groups use cannabis at comparable rates.”