The New Hampshire House of Representatives voted last week to approve a bill to legalize recreational marijuana, marking the second time the chamber has passed the legislation. Members of the House voted 239-136 on Thursday to pass the measure, House Bill 1633 (HB1633), which would legalize pot for adults and set the stage for tightly regulated cannabis sales.

Bills with financial elements must be passed twice under New Hampshire state law. The first time the marijuana legalization measure was up for a vote in February, the chamber advanced the bill by a vote of 239-14. The bill was then sent to the House Financial Committee so the panel could consider the financial elements of the proposal.

On April 2, the Financial Committee voted 19-6 to recommend passage of a revised version of the legislation. Democratic Representative Chuck Grassie wrote a statement in support of the bill.

“The legalization of cannabis will move production and sales from the underground, sometimes dangerous, illicit market to legal businesses, allowing for appropriate regulations and control,” he said at the time, the Concord Monitor reported.

Before the vote on Thursday, Republican state Representative Erica Layon, the sponsor of the measure, called on her colleagues in the House to pass the bill. She argued that many people in New Hampshire already have access to marijuana, either by growing their own, purchasing it in other states, or buying weed from the unregulated market. New Hampshire is an outlier in New England, being the only state in the region that has not yet legalized cannabis for adults.

“What this bill would change is that you could have regulated, tested products that are free of contaminants and are not mixed with other drugs,” Layon said, according to a separate report from the Concord Monitor.

If passed by the state Senate and signed into law by Republican Governor Chris Sununu, the bill would legalize marijuana for adults aged 21 and older, who would be permitted to possess up to four ounces of weed. The measure also legalizes the commercial production and sale of cannabis products under a tightly regulated model overseen by the New Hampshire Liquor Commission. The bill only allows for 15 retail cannabis dispensaries to operate statewide to serve a population of nearly 1.4 million people.

Opponents of the bill argued that marijuana legalization would harm young people, pose a safety risk on the state’s roadways and would not reduce unregulated sales of weed. Supporters of the arguments countered that such outcomes have not been documented in states that have legalized recreational weed.

Republican Representative Kenneth Weyler encouraged his fellow representatives to vote “no” on the bill, saying that other states that have legalized cannabis have had public safety issues after the reforms were enacted.

“We now have the examples of many other states that have legalized this substance over the past few years,” he said. “Have any of them bragged about how much money they made? Have any of them seen a reduction in petty crime?”

Following its passage in the House last week, HB 1633 now heads to the New Hampshire Senate for consideration by a legislative committee and the full body. If the Senate passes the bill, it will head to Sununu for consideration. 

After years of opposition to legalizing recreational weed, the governor said last year he would sign a bill that does so in a tightly controlled manner. However, the legislation does not fulfill the conditions he set at the time, including a proposal that would only allow cannabis sales at state-run dispensaries. If Sununu gets the bill, he will have the option of vetoing the legislation or signing it into law.

Cannabis policy advocates hailed the House’s passage of the recreational marijuana bill by lawmakers in the Granite State. Jen Flanagan, director of regulatory policy for cannabis and psychedelics law firm Vicente LLP, said she gives “the New Hampshire House of Representatives a lot of credit for their hard work in passing the adult-use cannabis legalization legislation.”

“As with every other state that has legalized cannabis, New Hampshire must work out the details that work for their state and I hope the Senate takes this opportunity to see that safe and legal products are best for the public health and public safety of communities,” Flanagan wrote in an email to High Times.

 [[{“value”:”For the second time, the New Hampshire House of Representatives has passed a bill to legalize weed for adults, including provisions permitting 15 dispensaries to sell adult-use cannabis in the state.
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