Sununu Predicts NH’s Bipartisan Marijuana Legalization Plan Won’t… – New Hampshire Public Radio | NutSocia

The recent plan to legalize the possession and retail sale of marijuana in New Hampshire has broad bipartisan support, as well as support from interest groups across the political spectrum. But the main sponsor of the bill warns that there is still a great deal of work to be done.

“My expectation is that the end product will be completely different than what you’re seeing now,” House Majority Leader Jason Osborne said at a state house news conference ahead of the first major hearing of the bill in the House Commerce Committee on Wednesday .

As it stands, Osborne’s proposal would allow anyone over the age of 21 to possess or give away up to 4 ounces of marijuana. It would also void records of past marijuana possession offenses and allow state-licensed retailers to sell cannabis. Retail sales would be taxed at 8.5%.

As drafted, the plan would also allow adults over the age of 21 “to safely grow up to six plants (three of which may be fully grown) and own the cannabis produced by those plants at home.”

The money generated from marijuana sales would be used for state pensions and drug abuse prevention. It would also flow to cities that allow retail sales and to law enforcement agencies.

House Democrat Chairman Matt Wilhelm, a co-sponsor of the bill, predicted that legalization will drive business development in New Hampshire, which is now the only New England state to allow recreational marijuana possession is still illegal. He argues that allowing adults to use cannabis would also reduce the harm caused by law enforcement, which disproportionately affects people of color in New Hampshire.

“Our communities and our economies will be stronger if we legalize cannabis for adult use in New Hampshire,” Wilhelm said.

New Hampshire decriminalized marijuana for personal use in 2017.

But according to the New Hampshire ACLU, about 1,000 people are still charged with marijuana possession in New Hampshire each year.

“Our estimate is that we spend approximately $2.6 million each year just enforcing our state’s marijuana possession laws alone,” said Frank Knaack, ACLU of New Hampshire policy director.

Sununu’s office does not expect the bill to reach the governor’s desk

The House of Representatives has repeatedly backed plans to legalize cannabis.

Typically, marijuana bills are first heard in the Legislature’s Criminal Justice Committee. This bill was assigned to the House Commerce Committee, an apparent move by leaders to prioritize the bill as more about business than law and order.

But traditional opponents of marijuana legalization came to Wednesday’s hearing armed with well-known arguments.

“The legalization and commercialization of cannabis poses a public health threat,” Bedford Police Chief John J. Bryfonski told lawmakers on behalf of the New Hampshire Association of Chiefs of Police. “It has led to more chaos and tragedy on our freeways.”

Law enforcement opposition to marijuana legalization programs has rarely swayed the House of Representatives. The Senate, which has never passed a legalization bill, is a different story. The proposal has some support in this chamber but it is far from clear whether it will be enough to win the passage.

A staunch supporter, Democratic Senator Becky Whitley of Hopkinton, emphasized what polls have long shown: Voters here support legalization.

“Seventy-four percent of Granite Staters support legalization — 74 percent,” Whitley told the committee. “Wouldn’t you be happy to get such support in the elections?

Gov. Chris Sununu – who won his last re-election bid with 57% of the vote – is another potential hurdle for this bill.

Sununu has said New Hampshire could eventually join neighboring states in legalizing marijuana, but he’s also repeatedly said he’s hesitant given the state’s opioid and fentanyl epidemic.

Earlier this month, Sununu and top security officials launched a new anti-drug effort called “No Safe Experience.”

When asked for comment on the bill Wednesday, Sununu’s office said they do not expect any legalization plan to reach the governor’s desk.

“It has failed repeatedly in the Senate, both in the Republican and Democrat years,” the governor’s office said in a statement. “With teenage drug use and overdose on the rise, don’t expect lawmakers to see this as a time to ignore the data and push it forward.”

Osborne, meanwhile, said he discussed his proposal with Sununu but declined to characterize the conversation.

“I don’t want to comment on what the governor thinks about this,” Osborne said.

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