New Hampshire liquor stores would sell pot under new legalization plan

Pot advocates criticized the proposal as a "poison pill" that would create a state cannabis monopoly.

Updated: February 20, 2022 - 10:32pm

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New Hampshire would sell recreational cannabis from its state-run liquor stores under a plan approved this week by the House of Representatives.

The bipartisan proposal, which was approved by a vote of 235-119, would allow adults 21 and older to buy cannabis from state-run dispensaries operated by the New Hampshire Liquor Commission. Adults would be allowed to possess up to four ounces of cannabis, under the proposal, but home cultivation would be outlawed.

Pot advocates criticized the proposal as a "poison pill" that would create a state cannabis monopoly and could put the state into conflict with federal law, which considers marijuana illegal.

"States can license and regulate private cannabis businesses, but they cannot direct their own workers to break federal law by selling cannabis," the Marijuana Policy Project, a Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group, said in a statement. "Doing so creates a 'direct and positive conflict' and is preempted."

In January, the House approved a similar bill to legalize marijuana cultivation and possession for personal use in the state. Under the plan, adults 21 and older would be allowed to possess up to three-quarters of an ounce of marijuana and to grow up to six plants. That proposal is still pending before the state Senate.

New Hampshire has often been described as a "cannabis island" with neighboring states and Canada allowing recreational marijuana cultivation and retail sales.

While the Granite State decriminalized marijuana possession in 2017, recreational growing and sales are not authorized.

In 2014, the Democrat-controlled House first approved a legalization bill but it failed to pass the Senate. Similar proposals have been refiled every session, but have failed to gain traction.

The state has also allowed medical marijuana dispensaries since 2013, but cultivating the drug for personal use is still a felony.

Lawmakers approved a bill in 2019 that would have allowed medical pot patients to grow their own supply, but Gov. Chris Sununu vetoed it, citing public safety concerns.

In October, the Legislature's House Criminal Justice Committee rejected proposals that would legalize and tax marijuana. Republicans who voted against the measure cited opposition to taxing marijuana products.

To date, at least 18 states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. territory of Guam have legalized recreational marijuana, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Thirty six states have medical marijuana programs.

The measure approved on Wednesday now heads to the House Finance Committee for review, before another House vote to consider any changes.

It would still need to pass the Senate and survive Sununu's veto pen to become law.

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