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New Hampshire House Votes To Table Marijuana Legalization Bill That Passed Senate, Potentially Killing Reform For Years To Come



New Hampshire’s House of Representatives has voted narrowly to table a Senate-passed bill that would have legalized and regulated marijuana in the state—effectively killing the prospects for enacting the reform this year and potentially for the foreseeable future.

Ahead of an election this November that will replace outgoing Gov. Chris Sununu (R) and reshape the legislature, the measure’s failure could delay the Granite State’s adoption of legalization indefinitely.

The House’s move to table the bill, HB 1633, came hours after the Senate approved the final version of the legislation, negotiated earlier this month in a bicameral conference committee, on a 14–10 vote.

The motion to table passed the House 178–173. Almost immediately afterward, supporters attempted to undo the tabling action, but that effort was defeated 189–162.

If enacted, the legislation would have made New Hampshire the 25th U.S. state to legalize cannabis for adults.

Rep. Jared Sullivan (D), who spoke out against House members accepting the negotiated version of the bill, described the proposal, which would have legalized cannabis sales through a heavily state-regulated system of franchise stores, as “the most intrusive, big-government marijuana program proposed anywhere in the country.”

“I must admit, 1633 is proving to be a pretty stubborn bill that refuses to die,” he said. “I, like many in this room, seriously want to legalize cannabis sales in New Hampshire. But the fact is, despite the recent tweaks, this remains a terrible bill.”

Some legalization advocates said they were disappointed to see pro-legalization lawmakers vote to scuttle the bill.

“It’s a sad day to see legalizers kill legalization,” Karen O’Keefe, director of state policies for the Marijuana Policy Project, told Marijuana Moment in an email after the House action. “While HB 1633 was an imperfect bill, it is far easier to revise a law than to pass a bill from scratch—especially if the next governor is a prohibitionist.”

Both leading Republican candidates running to replace Sununu have said they would oppose legalization, though the top Democratic contender says she would support it.

“Those who voted to kill HB 1633 are condemning hundreds of Granite Staters to arrests and life-altering convictions for bringing home a product that is legal in every one of New Hampshire’s neighbors,” O’Keefe said.

Thursday’s move by House lawmakers to kill the bill came despite a change of heart by one House member who, as of last week, was one of the most vocal critics of the Senate-made changes to the bill: its original sponsor, Rep. Erica Layon (R).

As discussion of the measure began, Layon encouraged passage of the negotiated bill.

“While my ideal model looks different, this conference report has my full support,” she said. “We have the opportunity today to make history as the 25th state to legalize cannabis.”

Though she too disagreed with some of the bill’s provisions, Layon emphasized that there would be opportunities next session to address those issues.

“We have the chance to get the ball rolling in New Hampshire,” she said. “Most of this bill won’t go into effect until 2026, which gives us more time to fight about some of the challenges and some of the concerns we have about this bill.”

Earlier, on the Senate floor, lawmakers voted to approve the measure despite some members raising similar concerns.

“I can certainly support it,” Sen. Shannon Chandley (D) said of the compromise bill ahead of the Senate floor vote. “At this point, it’s not perfect. We know that whenever we pass a major piece of legislation, it is seldom perfect.”

“We may need to revisit this, but right now, one of the things that I think is most important is that this bill does address what the people of our state want,” Chandley continued. “More than 70 percent of our residents do not believe cannabis should be illegal.”

Sununu, for his part, told a local reporter ahead of Thursday’s votes that while he still intended to “go through the final final bill,” he believed it met most of the requirements he expressed to lawmakers this session.

“I don’t see any red flags there, to be sure,” the governor told WMUR.

Ahead of Thursday’s floor votes—the final day for lawmakers to sign off on conference committee bills—some House lawmakers who supported the legalization measure openly doubted whether it would have the votes to pass. Other representatives said that while they favored the policy change in concept, they intended to vote against the bill because of specific changes made in the Senate.

Already there was tension between the two chambers on the issue. The House last month rejected an earlier Senate-passed version of the bill that largely resembles the current measure, sending the measure to the conference committee and raising questions on whether members could reach a deal.

Based largely on language passed last month by the Senate, the revised measure, HB 1633, would allow 15 stores to open statewide beginning in 2026 through a novel state-run franchise system. Though stores would be privately run, the government would oversee operations, including setting final prices on products. Purchases would incur a 15 percent “franchise fee”—effectively a tax—that would apply to both adult-use and medical marijuana purchases.

Marijuana possession wouldn’t become legal until 2026, once the state’s licensed market is up and running. That same year, possession of up to two ounces of marijuana would become fully legal.

In the meantime, possession of up to one ounce of cannabis would carry a $100 maximum civil fine—an increase from the state’s current law that decriminalizes up to three-quarters of an ounce—effective immediately on enactment.

The proposal would limit each municipality to only a single cannabis retail establishment unless it’s home to more than 50,000 people, though only two cities in the state, Manchester and Nashua, meet that threshold. Local voters would also need to pre-approve the industry in order for businesses to open in that jurisdiction.

Home cultivation of cannabis for personal use would remain illegal, and the state’s Liquor Commission would have the authority to enforce that provision.

Smoking or vaping marijuana in public would be a violation on the first offense and an misdemeanor for second or subsequent offenses within five years, a charge that could carry jail time. Consuming cannabis in other forms in public—for example, drinking a THC-infused beverage—would carry no punishment, unlike open container rules around alcohol.

For someone driving a car, the bill would outlaw consumption of cannabis by any means. Passengers would be forbidden from smoking or vaping cannabis. Driving under the influence of marijuana would remain a crime regardless of where the cannabis was consumed.

By contrast, the version of the bill passed by the House in April would have legalize through a so-called “agency store” model preferred by sponsor Layon and colleagues in that chamber. Under that approach, the state would oversee a system of privately run stores, with strict limits on marketing and advertising. That version also included a higher personal possession limit of four ounces, and medical marijuana would be been exempt from the state surcharge. Further, personal possession of two ounces of cannabis would have become legal immediately.

Most legalization and criminal justice advocates preferred the House bill, though they did welcome some licensing provision changes in the Senate version.

And while Layon herself was initially inclined to oppose the negotiated bill, she told Marijuana Moment that she eventually warmed to it after more closely evaluating the Senate changes and recognizing that the franchise approach might still be revised before the market’s launch.

“As we were working through it and talking to more people, we didn’t have much time between when the Senate changed the bill and when we had to vote on it,” she said of her earlier opposition. “Now, with that clarity of time, I realize that the Senate made it easier to change.”

If the bill had cleared both the Senate and House on Thursday, the next hurdle for the proposal would have been Sununu, who’s said that he personally opposes legalization but sees the reform as inevitable.

Though the governor’s office hasn’t replied to multiple requests for comment from Marijuana Moment in recent weeks, Sununu has previously said that he would accept legislation based on the Senate-passed version of the bill—provided there were no major adjustments.

In the interview earlier this week, the governor seemed to speak favorably of lawmakers’ approach to the policy change, contrasting it to other state cannabis systems.

New Hampshire “tried to take into consideration that if we’re going to do it, develop the best system not just in the region, but probably in the country,” Sununu said, “and hopefully a system, if it were to go forward, that can be a model that’s built around the concepts of safety and minimizes its access to children.”

He pledge to take “a strong look” at the legislation it reached his desk.

He criticized the so-called “marijuana mile” in South Berwick, Maine, where he said “there’s a pot shop on every corner, and people don’t like it.” Of Massachusetts, he said there are “billboards all over” that “tout marijuana and how it’s easy access.”

Other states, he claimed have seen cannabis shops open “directly adjacent” to nearby schools, he added, while Vermont and other states that allow home cultivation for personal use “actually encourages a black market.”

Sununu is not seeking reelection this year, which added an additional degree of urgency for some lawmakers who supported legalization. Two top Republican gubernatorial contenders, former U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte and former state Sen. Chuck Morse, have already said they would oppose the reform if elected.

Meanwhile leading Democratic candidate Joyce Craig, a three-term mayor of Manchester whose last term ended in January, recently sent out a press release in favor of legalization.

Lawmakers in the state worked extensively on marijuana reform issues last session and attempted to reach a compromise to enact legalization through a multi-tiered system that would include state-controlled shops, dual licensing for existing medical cannabis dispensaries and businesses privately licensed to individuals by state agencies. The legislature ultimately hit an impasse on the complex legislation.

Bicameral lawmakers convened a state commission tasked with studying legalization and proposing a path forward last year, though the group ultimately failed to arrive at a consensus or propose final legislation.

The Senate defeated a more conventional House-passed legalization bill last year, HB 639, despite its bipartisan support.

Last May, the House defeated marijuana legalization language that was included in a Medicaid expansion bill. The Senate also moved to table another piece of legislation that month that would have allowed patients and designated caregivers to cultivate up to three mature plants, three immature plants and 12 seedlings for personal therapeutic use.

After the Senate rejected the reform bills in 2022, the House included legalization language as an amendment to separate criminal justice-related legislation—but that was also struck down in the opposite chamber.

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Ben Adlin, a senior editor at Marijuana Moment, has been covering cannabis and other drug policy issues professionally since 2011. He was previously a senior news editor at Leafly, an associate editor at the Los Angeles Daily Journal and a Coro Fellow in Public Affairs. He lives in Washington State.


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