New vote on pot legalization slated in NH House this week

Marina Riker/AP file photo 

Marina Riker/AP file photo  Marina Riker/AP file photo

By RICK GREEN

Keene Sentinel

Published: 04-09-2024 2:05 PM

The N.H. House of Representatives is scheduled to vote Thursday on a measure to legalize sale and possession of marijuana for recreational uses.

This will be the second time for representatives to vote on House Bill 1633.

On Feb. 22, the House voted, 239-141, in favor of the measure.

On April 2, the House Finance Committee voted, 19-6, to recommend House passage of a revised version of the bill. (Bills with financial elements have to go to that committee before returning for a second vote of the full House.)

Rep. Chuck Grassie, D-Rochester, wrote a statement in support of the bill.

“The legalization of cannabis will move production and sales from the underground, sometimes dangerous, illicit market to legal businesses, allowing for appropriate regulations and control,” he said.

In a statement in opposition to the bill, Rep. Kenneth Weyler, R-Kingston, repeated a message Republican Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin made when he vetoed a legalization bill in that state on March 28:

“States following this path have seen adverse effects on children’s and adolescents' health and safety, increased gang activity and violent crime, significant deterioration in mental health, decreased road safety, and significant costs associated with retail marijuana that far exceed tax revenue.”

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Proponents of legalization say such public safety and crime arguments are undocumented and unfounded, and add that state regulation of marijuana would mitigate some of the dangers posed in the illicit market such as mixing cannabis with other substances.

New Hampshire is the only state in New England that hasn't legalized marijuana for recreational use. 

Under HB 1633, there would be 15 stores authorized as state franchises to sell cannabis products to adults. The bill would prohibit use of the drug in public and while driving. Medical marijuana sales were legalized in New Hampshire in 2013. 

If the N.H. House again passes the marijuana legalization measure, it would be considered by the Senate, which has rejected House-passed legalization bills in the past.

One difference this year is that Gov. Chris Sununu, who had been an opponent of legalization, now says he would support it under certain conditions such as strong state regulation and a limited number of stores.