NH Ready To Join the Rest of New England With Legal Marijuana

fran_kie / shutterstock.com
fran_kie / shutterstock.com

Of all the states that make up New England, New Hampshire seemed like the least likely to drag their feet on legalizing recreational cannabis. Yet the rest of New England and the entire northeast got there first. The “Live Free or Die” state has been one of the largest sources of freedom to do what you choose in the US. Believing firmly in the individual right to choose above all else, this great state withheld that support for recreational cannabis for years.

Now charged with drafting legislation to legalize recreational cannabis sales, the NH Commission has been hard at work. Among the topics causing the biggest problems are incorporating existing medicinal dispensaries into the recreational fold, testing parameters for potency, and not interfering with existing hemp and CBD companies.

The panel is comprised of 19 people, with Republican Sen. Daryl Abbas serving as the commission chair. So far, he has had to remind speakers that they are there to write a proposal to legalize cannabis and hear the witness testimony to shape the policy change. Not to try and stop it from happening. A unique situation for sure; they don’t seem very ready to adapt to the will of their people.

Called the “Commission to Study With the Purpose of Proposing Legalization, State Controlled Sales of Cannabis and Cannabis Products,” they were just assembled back in August. Charged with figuring out the landscape for making the change and getting it to go through, the recommended legislation is due by December 1st. Once completed, lawmakers will vote on it in 2024.

Following the testimony from opponents of legalization, members took the rest of October 24th to give the 37-page draft a thorough line-by-line review. While only a draft, it’s comprised of bits and pieces from multiple versions of the bill. With little happening to advance the bill, their lack of progress is unsurprising. The discussions being held about the text of the bill were minor and largely centered around keeping the hemp/CBD discussions entirely out of the language of the bill.

Given how rapidly and easily the language of the bill is adopted, it seems like lawmakers are willing to work it out in a timely matter and are trying to avoid the pitfalls of other states. One line questioning the sale of smoking accessories like glass pipes (commonly called bowls) or rolling papers should be subject to the same taxes as cannabis. Most felt that given the separation of these locations from cannabis sales, they should not be subject to those taxes and regulations. It was quickly stricken from the bill.

As it stands, the state currently has seven alternative treatment centers (ATCs). Currently run under a not-for-profit model, this would change with legal recreational marijuana. The state-controlled model would look significantly different from what the state has now.

If passed as being discussed, NH officials would now have the final say in marketing and the way a dispensary looks and is run. Ultimately, the state would have most of the control and none of the burden and responsibilities. It would also open a lot of doors for multi-state organizations to come in, and that could significantly change the landscape of marijuana in the state.

Another idea is the idea of running a franchise-based operation. Equated frequently to a McDonald’s or Dunkin’ Doughnuts, the state would control a lot of the operations, and those running the stores would have little input on changing things. While this might sound like a grand idea, if you talk to anyone who’s ever operated a franchise, it can get very difficult.

The discussion about folding in ATCs has been exceptionally difficult. Wild ideas have been perpetuated about making them require separate medicinal and recreational locations or just counters. Another debate is about who should be overseeing recreational marijuana. The Department of Health and Human Services, which currently oversees the medical program, or renaming an already existing entity as the Liquor and Cannabis Commission.

No matter how this plays out, this is a long overdue time for New Hampshire. On all sides, they are surrounded by legal marijuana, and it’s time they got some of that revenue.