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With bipartisan support, NH House passes bill to legalize and tax marijuana

Cannabis sign at State House
Zoey Knox
A person holds a sign supporting marijuana legalization as state representatives enter the New Hampshire House of Representatives on April 6, 2023.

A marijuana legalization bill cleared another hurdle in Concord this week, with bipartisan support.

The New Hampshire House of Representatives on Thursday voted 272 to 109 to pass a bill to legalize and tax cannabis.

New Hampshire is the only state in New England where recreational marijuana use remains illegal. Efforts to change that looked even stronger this year, thanks to support from the top Democrat and Republican in the New Hampshire House.

The state Senate has historically blocked legalization bills. And Gov. Chris Sununu has opposed it in the past.

The latest proposal aims to regulate cannabis similar to alcohol – with the New Hampshire Liquor Commission having prime responsibility for licensing and enforcement.

Anyone 21 and older would be allowed to possess up to 4 ounces of cannabis in plant form, 20 grams of concentrated cannabis products, such as those used for vaping, and products containing no more than 2,000 milligrams of THC.

The original bill was amended to direct the excise tax at the wholesale level, rather than at the cultivation level.

As currently proposed, it would set a rate of 12.5% on the “monthly total gross revenue derived from sales or transfers to a retail cannabis store of either cannabis or any cannabis production in its final form.”

It now calls for an appropriation of $15.6 million over 2024-25 to fund associated start-up costs during a rulemaking process that’s expected to take a year or two. That would be paid back from revenues.

The legislation would dedicate 50% of net tax revenues to reduce the statewide education property tax to be raised by towns and cities, 30% to reduce the state’s retirement funding liability, and 20% to state health programs and public safety, including funds for substance abuse recovery.

Under the proposal, facilities that already dispense medical cannabis to New Hampshire patients would be permitted to seek a dual retail license.

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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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