The proposal, which is sponsored by Majority Leader Jason Osborne (R) and Minority Leader Matthew Wilhelm (D), passed the House on Thursday by a vote of 272-109. An amendment that would have added separate legalization language to the budget legislation was rejected earlier in the day.
HB 639, the bill now going to the Senate, already won the entire House in February but needed to pass the Ways & Means Committee, where it was amended last month, before returning to the floor to final approval.
Osborne said in a press release that he is “pleased to see New Hampshire take a step toward relieving gangsters and hoodlums of control of this market by keeping dangerous untested products away from consumers and protecting children from harmful products inappropriate for the age”.
Wilhelm said that “with the landmark passage of HB 639, the New Hampshire House sent a strong message that this is the year to legalize cannabis in the Granite State.
“Every year we fail to legalize marijuana, the state wastes precious resources and ruins the lives of many young and poor people by enforcing bans that have exposed their failure,” he said. “New Hampshire remains the only state in New England that has failed to legalize cannabis, while our neighbors enjoy higher revenues and their cannabis consumers have safer testing and regulation. Legalizing the possession of small amounts of cannabis is the right thing for New Hampshire to do, and we need to do it in 2023.”
Rep. Walter Spilsbury (R) said on the floor before the vote that “it has been a long time coming for legal private cannabis and cannabis product businesses to develop successfully in the state of New Hampshire, subject to proper regulation and taxation.” .”
A majority report from the Ways & Means committee says it’s difficult to estimate tax revenue with confidence, but that members assume it will be “negligible” for the first two years and build up over time.
“Judging by the experiences of other states that have gone before us, the prospects for growth are considerable and could increase substantially thereafter, offering some hope that this new source of state revenue could help ease the tax burden of education funding. on real estate,” he says.
Earlier in the session, members of the Committee on Trade and Consumers had spent weeks crafting the proposal in a series of meetings, going back and forth on a number of provisions and making changes to the original measure.
Here’s what the HB 639 as modified would accomplish:
Adults 21 and older would be able to buy, possess and give away up to four ounces of cannabis.
The recently renamed Liquor and Cannabis Commission would be responsible for regulating the marijuana market and issuing business licenses.
There would be no statewide limit on the number of marijuana businesses that could be licensed.
Within 18 months of going into effect, the state Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and commission should develop regulations that allow existing medical cannabis dispensaries to apply for dual licensing to begin serving recreational users.
Cannabis would be taxed at an amount equal to 12.5% of the value of the products in their final form at the wholesale level.
After the costs of implementing legalization are covered, $100,000 in revenue will fund data collection and reporting on the health impacts of cannabis prohibition and cannabis regulation.
After that, of the remaining funds, 50 percent would go to cities and towns to offset the education tax, 30 percent would go to the New Hampshire retirement system to offset its liability, 10 percent or $25 million (whatever the lower value) would fund substance use programs, 5% would be used to hire and train drug recognition experts, and 5% would support children’s behavioral health services.
Individual localities may restrict or prohibit marijuana businesses from operating in their area.
There would be employment protections for state or local government workers who use marijuana off the job. Professional and employment licenses cannot be denied or withdrawn because a person uses cannabis.
Marijuana companies could deduct business expenses from their state-level taxes.
There are no provisions to allow home cultivation or reverse previous convictions for cannabis.
(Marijuana Moment of 04/06/2023)
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