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New Hampshire House Narrowly Kills Cannabis Legalization Bill

“It is unfortunate that lawmakers and the governor could not come together to negotiate a policy.”

House lawmakers voted 178 to 173 last week to table legislation legalizing the possession and retail sale of cannabis for adults. A separate vote to reconsider the measure also failed.

The legislation (HB 1633) – which had been negotiated in a bicameral conference committee one week ago and had been approved by the Senate earlier this afternoon – would have limited total number of cannabis retailers statewide to no more than 15 state-supervised franchisees. Liquor is similarly sold in New Hampshire exclusively in state-run establishments.

The franchise model was first proposed by Republican Gov. Chris Sununu, who had repeatedly said that he would not consider alternative retail models for cannabis sales. Many members of the House expressed strong opposition to regulating cannabis sales in this manner, calling the plan an “intrusive big government program.”

The proposed measure also sought to immediately decriminalize activities involving the possession of up to one ounce of cannabis. Starting on January 1, 2026, adults would have been able to legally possess up to two ounces of cannabis.

New Hampshire is the only New England state that has not legalized marijuana use and sales, though the possession of limited quantities of cannabis have been decriminalized. Possessing greater amounts is classified as a criminal misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail. 

The Marijuana Policy Project’s Karen O’Keefe expressed disappointment over the House’s decision to table the negotiated bill. “Those who voted to kill HB 1633 are condemning hundreds of Granite Staters to arrests and life-altering convictions for bringing home a product that is legal in every one of New Hampshire’s neighbors,” she said. “While HB 1633 was an imperfect bill, it is far easier to revise a law than to pass a bill from scratch — especially if the next governor is a prohibitionist. “

Republican candidates Kelly Ayotte and Chuck Morse, who are seeking to replace Sununu as Governor, have both said that, if elected, they would oppose loosening the state’s cannabis laws.

NORML’s Deputy Director Paul Armentano added: “For the foreseeable future, New Hampshire will remain an island of cannabis prohibition. It is unfortunate that lawmakers and the governor could not come together to negotiate a policy that put their constituents’ interests first. Over 70 percent of residents want legal cannabis. Their elected officials ought to be listening to them, not turning their backs on them.”

This post was republished from NORML.