New Hampshire lawmakers nix recreational marijuana sales – for now

New Hampshire’s Republican-controlled House of Representatives narrowly rejected a bill to legalize recreational marijuana sales, as the state remains one of the only holdouts in New England.

But “legalization is very much still alive in New Hampshire (in 2022),” Karen O’Keefe, state policies director for Washington DC-based Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), told MJBizDaily on Thursday.

O’Keefe noted that New Hampshire House lawmakers defeated HB 237, which had called for a regulated recreational marijuana market without license caps, by only a 170-163 margin. Another 67 members were absent or did not vote.

She wrote in an email to MJBizDaily that six other adult-use legalization bills are in play in New Hampshire this year, “three to outright legalize and three to kick the question to voters” in the fall.

What New Hampshire House lawmakers did pass this week, by a resounding vote of 241-113, was a separate bill that would legalize home grow. That bill, HB 629, now goes to the state Senate.

MPP points out that public sentiment very much favors adult-use marijuana legalization.

The advocacy group cites a survey published in May 2021 by the University of New Hampshire that found 75% of state residents supported legalization.

New Hampshire is a conservative state, although it also has an independent, libertarian streak, as evidenced by its “Live Free or Die” motto and lack of a state sales tax.

Rhode Island is the other New England holdout, although it is expected to legalize recreational marijuana this year.

New Hampshire doesn’t have a citizen initiative process.

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But House Minority Leader Renny Cushing, a Democrat, is one of several who have proposed that lawmakers refer adult-use marijuana legalization to voters as a constitutional amendment.

Such a move would require 60% approval by both the state House and Senate.

Then the referendum itself would need to be approved by at least two-thirds of the voters.

– Jeff Smith