State commission unveils ideas for legal marijuana in New Hampshire

  • Logos used by three states to alert people that items such as brownies contain THC, the active ingredient in cannabis. From left: Michigan. Oregon, Colorado. A commission says New Hampshire needs to create such a logo if recreational marijuana is legalized here. —Monitor illustration

  • FILE - In this Aug. 1, 2018, file photo, Christine Glenn sorts marijuana at the Blum marijuana dispensary in Las Vegas. Nevada regulators and industry insiders say the state's first year of adult-use marijuana sales has exceeded their expectations. A marijuana trade group says pot production, processing and sales could be a billion-dollar industry in Nevada by 2024. That's a key finding in an economic analysis being released Friday, Oct. 26, 2018, by the Nevada Dispensary Association. (AP Photo/John Locher, File) John Locher

Monitor staff
Published: 11/2/2018 6:10:46 PM

If New Hampshire ever joins the states around us and allows recreational marijuana, we’ll face a lot of decisions about how to proceed. For example: What’s the logo going to be?

“States that have legalized and commercialized marijuana ... have come up with a warning symbol indicating that THC or other marijuana compounds are contained within. . . . There was consensus by the commission that such a symbol be created or adopted and utilized,” said a report issued Thursday by a state commission that made recommendations about a number of cannabis-legalization issues.

Ah, but which symbol?

“Some commissioners suggested exploring the green cross symbol which has begun to gain recognition as the universal symbol for marijuana. Other commissioners felt that symbol implied there were medical benefits in all these products, which is debatable.”

In other words, we’ll figure out something when the time comes.

That’s the conclusion on a number of the 54 issues where the committee weighed in, reflecting the uncertain status of legalization in New Hampshire as all three neighboring states and Quebec move ahead with making recreational pot legal.

The 17-member group consisted of elected officials, regulators, as well as representatives of law enforcement, medicine, banking and the law. It met 26 times since it was created by the Legislature in 2017 to “examine the possible impacts of changing state policy to treat marijuana in a manner similar to the way the state deals with alcohol.”

The group, carrying the hefty title Commission to Study the Legalization, Regulation, and Taxation of Marijuana, did not take a position on whether recreational marijuana should be legalized; it only looked at a variety of issues that will come up if we do legalize it.

Here’s one such issue: Can we get free samples of a store’s latest batch of cannabis brownies or new strain of weed?

That seems reasonable – after all, the report noted, “Some commissioners brought up that beer or wine tasting is allowed for free and thus why not marijuana sampling for free.”

However, its members were not persuaded by this parallel: “The consensus was that allowing free samples to customers was not a good idea. The logic being, sampling beer or wine is done not to get high but for the taste of the products. With marijuana samples, it would be solely for potency testing reasons.”

On a more serious note, the commission also considered the thorny question of sentence annulment. If possessing marijuana becomes legal, what if anything should be done for people who were convicted of possessing it illegally in the past?

At least three states that legalized recreational pot, including Massachusetts, made it easier for people convicted of some crimes involving possession, cultivation or manufacturing of marijuana to have their records sealed or expunged.

Since New Hampshire already has a law allowing convictions to be annulled by petition (RSA 651:5), the commission decided that this wasn’t something that needed an immediate push.

“Many of the commission members said that an annulment mechanism is already in statute that would apply. With no consensus reached, it was suggested that the Cannabis Commission Advisory Board take up this issue once established.” Creating that advisory board to pin down issues post-legalization was one of the group’s suggestions.

The report also took a stab at how much tax revenue the state could earn from legalization. Using existing estimates it said 130,000 New Hampshire residents, plus about 1,500 tourists, use marijuana, consuming between 5 and 8 ounces per year at a cost of around $320 an ounce. Taxing this could bring between $15 million and $58 million a year to the state, depending on the rate.

Among the report’s other recommendations:

■Legislation should call it cannabis, the scientific name, rather than marijuana.

■Communities can decide whether to allow cannabis-related businesses, but they can’t put more constraints on such businesses than they do on other types of business.

■No smoking or vaping should be allowed in public places, outdoors or indoors, but eating or drinking cannabis-laced foods is okay. “The commission concluded that the ingestion of edibles ... should be allowed since any restriction would be unenforceable.”

■Make sure we close the “gifting loophole” that is used to avoid regulation and taxation in states where it’s legal to give small amounts of marijuana. The report’s example: “charging $325 for a sandwich bag, but giving away the marijuana in it for free.”

■Home cultivation of marijuana plants should be allowed, with strict limits on the number of plants. Limits should also be placed on commercial cultivation.

■In the most narrowly focused recommendation, the group said that “home cultivation should ban the use of butane or any other flammable in the extraction of concentrate process,” a decision made after it “heard much testimony from other states who reported numerous home explosions” due to flawed home extraction.

The entire report can be read at htv-prod-media.s3.amazonaws.com/files/commission-to-study-legalization-of-marijuana-1541110691.pdf.

(David Brooks can be reached at 369-3313 or dbrooks@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @GraniteGeek.)



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