New Hampshire has taken a step towards legalizing recreational marijuana use, giving residents hope they will become the 11th to legalize and the first in 2019.
The bill, HB 481, passed via a vote of 209-147 in the state House of Representatives. The bill passed the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee prior to the House vote, although that margin was much narrower at 10-9.
Rep. Robert Cushing is the sponsor for the bill, and his stance is that the war against marijuana use has been a failure in action for almost a century. He notes the time has come to address the issues caused by cannabis prohibition, which he compares to the damage done by alcohol prohibition in the past.
Despite the fact the vote passed, the debate prior to the House vote shows the bill becoming law is not a foregone conclusion. Opponents of the bill, including Rep. Patrick Abrami who chaired the commission that researched the issue, voiced concerns about the fact there are no noted benefits of cannabis use while there are numerous possible risks.
For those who support the move to legalize, the arguments are varied: the move would cut back on black market dealings in the state, product testing and labeling would improve safety for users and also legalization would cut down on interactions with drug dealers and the inherent risks to those interactions.
HB 481 stipulates the drug will be available for sale to residents age 21 and over, taxation will be similar to the system used for alcohol and the system for retail licenses will need to be processed by the end of 2020 to enable the state to start seeing sales by 2021 sometime. A separate panel will be formed to advise the commission in charge of issuing the retail licenses.
The breakdown of the fund allocation would be as follows: one-third for the general fund, while the remainder would be split between educational funds, research, law enforcement, and public safety as well as the municipalities where marijuana retailers will be located.