Marijuana-legalization legislation featuring state-run cannabis stores — as suggested by Republican Gov. Chris Sununu — surfaced in the N.H. House on Tuesday in the form of an amendment by Rindge Rep. John Hunt.
The Republican-controlled N.H. Senate, in a largely partisan, 14-10 vote, killed a House-passed bill on May 11 that would have legalized recreational use of the drug and allowed it to be sold at private cannabis stores.
The next day, Sununu said he would support legalization if the state controlled sales and distribution, as it does for liquor, selling it at its own stores. He acknowledged he has previously been opposed to legalization.
Sununu said such a bill should also prohibit cannabis stores near schools, allow the state to control marketing and messaging, permit towns to refuse to allow the stores, not tax sales and prohibit areas packed with cannabis stores, so-called “marijuana miles.”
All of his priorities appear to be addressed in Hunt’s amendment to Senate Bill 98, concerning delinquent payments involving businesses licensed by the N.H. Liquor Commission.
The Republican lawmaker chairs the House Commerce Committee, which began considering his amendment Tuesday.
The committee will eventually schedule a vote on whether to adopt it. It would then go to the full House, which has passed legalization measures before, and the Senate, which has not. If both chambers pass the legislation, it could become law with Sununu’s signature.
Hunt told the committee there’s still time to pass a legalization bill in this year’s legislative session, which ends next month.
“Notwithstanding that some people were not supportive of any marijuana legislation no matter what, what occurs here is that, yes, we did have out of the blue a second thought about marijuana legislation,” Hunt said.
“The issue is whether this is something we want to get done, or whether we just wait.”
Karen O’Keefe, of the Washington, D.C.-based Marijuana Policy Project, sent an email to the committee, saying New Hampshire might find itself in court if it chooses to sell marijuana, a drug that is outlawed in federal statute.
“It would be impossible for state-run cannabis store employees to comply with both state and federal law, creating a ‘direct and positive conflict’ and likely resulting in the state law being preempted — or nullified,” said O’Keefe, who is director of state policies for the nonprofit organization, which is dedicated to legalizing marijuana.
O’Keefe suggested that if lawmakers continue with a state-sales approach, they write a “safety valve” into the legislation to allow a quick pivot to private sales if needed.
Opponents of marijuana legalization say public health would suffer if marijuana is legalized and becomes more prevalent in society. They say young people are particularly vulnerable to the drug.
Supporters say cannabis is already widely available — it’s legal in surrounding states — and that regulated sales would be preferable to purchases on the black market, where marijuana is more likely to be contaminated or mixed with other drugs.
Currently, possession of less than three-quarters of an ounce of marijuana in New Hampshire can result in a citation and a $100 fine, with stiffer penalties for larger amounts. The state does allow people with doctors’ orders to buy medical marijuana.
Does this legislation protect tenants from unwanted exposure to pot smoke? Because I've been subject to marijuana smoke in my rented apartment off and on for years--in the past with tenants who used to go on days-long pot binges. It ticks me off! People shouldn't be allowed to impose their filthy habit on others. particularly in a building with supposed "no smoking" rules. There needs to be recourse for people who do not choose to do drugs but are forced to.
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