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Study of Marijuana Legalization in N.H. Nears Completion

Dan Tuohy / NHPR

The commission studying marijuana legalization in New Hampshire will be making up to 50 recommendations in its report due November 1st

Just don’t expect an up-or-down vote to recommend recreational pot.

Or oppose it.

State Representative Patrick Abrami, chairman of the commission, says the report will outline the potential pitfalls and the best way for legislators to go about it—should New Hampshire follow neighboring states and legalize it for adults.

Some commission members continue to raise concerns about public health and safety.

After nearly a year of studying cannabis, Abrami allows his views have somewhat evolved. He has voted against marijuana bills in the past.

“I could see some of the benefits of legalization now, whether or not I would vote on the floor for it is another discussion,” he said after the commission met Monday.

He says one benefit would be that people would know what they are getting in terms of a regulated product, and not some black-market pot possibly laced with fentanyl or something else.

And today’s weed is more potent, he says:  “This is not your grandfather's marijuana."

Should legislators pursue legalization, the commission has discussed recommending a Cannabis Commission -- similar to the state’s Liquor Commission -- to serve as a regulatory and enforcement arm.

The final report will spell out an array of issues, based on the scenario that a future legislature will consider legalization - not that it should. The issues include possible licensing fees, allowing towns and cities to say no to marijuana businesses, and possession limits (likely 1 ounce, according to draft documents and discussions).

The commission has two or three more meetings before its report deadline.

Abrami is working to build consensus on most issues and the report will say so if commission members are divided or undecided. He’s previously described the commission’s task as finding “the good, the bad, and the ugly” with marijuana legalization, regulation, and taxation. One highlight for Abrami is the importance of peer-reviewed research.

The commission will be using “cannabis,” the scientific term. It will leave it up to the Legislature what to call any proposed legalization, such as “adult use” marijuana, recreational marijuana, or regulated marijuana. New Hampshire’s medical marijuana law is officially called the “therapeutic cannabis” program.

Opponents of legalization have panned the idea on multiple fronts, including questioning doing so in the middle of an opioid addiction crisis.

The commission has heard from officials from other states that have legalized marijuana, as well as reviewed various tax rates and the millions raised from them. It remains a political question, not just a policy one. Marijuana remains illegal on the federal level.


Gov. Chris Sununu has opposed marijuana legalization. Former Sen. Molly Kelly, his Democratic challenger, supports it -- as does Libertarian nominee Jilletta Jarvis.

Dan is a long-time New Hampshire journalist who has written for outlets including Foster's Daily Democrat, The Citizen of Laconia, The Boston Globe, and The Eagle-Tribune. He comes to NHPR from the New Hampshire Union Leader, where he reported on state, local, and national politics.
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