NH Lawmakers May Study Feasibility Of State-Controlled Cannabis Retail Model

Plus Granite State medical dispensaries now welcoming out-of-state business

Here’s a quick recap of the fight for adult-use cannabis in New Hampshire over the past few months …

In early May, the state’s Senate Judiciary Committee voted against a measure that would end prohibition there, effectively killing any chance of it happening this session or anytime soon. Or at least that’s what a lot of people thought until … 

On May 12, Republican Gov. Chris Sununu released a surprise statement saying, among other things, that “NH is the only state in New England where recreational use is not legal,” and since “a majority of our residents support legalization, it is reasonable to assume change is inevitable.”

Sununu also pitched a general plan, adding “with the right policy and framework in place, I stand ready to sign a legalization bill that puts the State of NH in the drivers seat, focusing on harm reduction — not profits. Similar to our Liquor sales, this path helps to keep substances away from kids by ensuring the State of New Hampshire retains control of marketing, sales, and distribution — eliminating any need for additional taxes.”

So basically, the governor wants New Hampshire pot shops to look like their government-run liquor stores. And now, according to Ethan DeWitt at the Eagle Tribune, legislators may advance in that direction:

After negotiations last week, House and Senate lawmakers agreed on a last-minute amendment to a bill to create a study commission for a liquor store-based model. That bill, House Bill 611, will need final approval from the full House and Senate this week.

If approved, the commission will look at “the feasibility of establishing a state-controlled system to sell marijuana to adults 21 years and older.” It will also study how to create that system while keeping distribution and access under the state’s control, how to allow the state to control the messaging on and marketing of cannabis, how to let cities and towns to reject or limit state cannabis sales in their jurisdictions, and how to prevent “marijuana miles” where cannabis retail is too concentrated in one geographic area.

A liquor store cannabis sales model would be unique; no other state that has legalized cannabis has created a state-controlled retail market. Most states that have legalized allow licensed businesses to grow, sell, and distribute it.

If approved, the commission would begin meeting over the summer and fall, and would be tasked with producing a report on its recommendations by Dec. 1. House and Senate lawmakers would be able to submit legislation adhering to Sununu’s requests ahead of the 2024 legislative year.

“This is a long-term, sustainable solution for our state,” Sununu said to the Eagle-Tribune about the liquor-store model in May. “I am supportive of legalizing marijuana in the right way —with this Legislature —rather than risk a poorly thought out framework that inevitably could pass under future governors or legislatures.”

Meanwhile, in other Granite State cannabis news, medical marijuana dispensaries there can now sell to visitors from other states and even Canada. WMUR is on that story.