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Marijuana Legalization Bill Clears Another Major Hurdle In New Hampshire

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New Hampshire got one step closer to legalizing marijuana on Wednesday after a key committee approved a bill to tax and regulate cannabis sales.

The House Ways and Means Committee passed the legislation in a 14-6 vote, meaning the legislation will go back to the chamber’s floor for another vote there and then onto the Senate. The bill was referred to the committee after the full House initially approved it last month.

The proposal would allow adults 21 and older to possess, consume, cultivate, gift and purchase marijuana from licensed retailers. A governor-appointed commission would be tasked with developing regulatory policies and issuing the licenses.

Individuals with prior convictions for possessing or growing cannabis would be able to get their records cleared under the bill.

Previous attempts to legalize marijuana in New Hampshire have stalled in the Ways and Means committee, including last year when a noncommercial legalization bill was sent there to die after being approved on the House floor. The successful passage of a broader legalization bill that allows retail sales through that same committee this year is significant.

“This is a major step forward and suggests support and momentum are growing in the legislature,” Matt Simon, New England political director for the Marijuana Policy Project, said in a press release. “In previous years, this committee’s negative recommendations turned out to be death sentences for legalization bills that had initially received approval from the full House. This time around, it has given its blessing to a proposal that received record-high support.”

“It’s time for the House to approve HB 481 and send it over to the Senate,” he said.

The legislation calls for retail cannabis sales to be taxed at nine percent, while wholesale marijuana would be taxed at five percent. Medical cannabis would not be taxed.

Gov. Chris Sununu (R) has said he plans to veto cannabis legalization if it gets on his desk, but House Speaker Steve Shurtleff (D) feels there’s enough support in his chamber to override a veto, and that could also be the case for the Senate.

“There is a growing sentiment that prohibition is not working and that legalization is inevitable, both in New Hampshire and the surrounding region,” Simon said. “With HB 481, lawmakers have developed a sensible path forward for the state. This was evidenced by the strong majority support we saw during the initial House vote, and it was confirmed by the committee’s about-face compared to previous years.”

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Photo courtesy of Mike Latimer.

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