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Liquor Commission Says It Could Regulate Recreational Pot If N.H. Makes It Legal

PROBartolomej Jahoda via Flickr CC

In the debate over legalizing marijuana in New Hampshire, advocates have said it should be regulated like alcohol.

So, it makes some sense that the New Hampshire State Liquor Commission would be a potential go-to agency to regulate it, should the Granite State one day permit retail sale of recreational pot. 

The commission does have the appropriate expertise and is willing to take on the role, according to Chief Operating Officer Dan St. Hilaire’s recent testimony before the commission charged with studying legalization, regulation, and taxation of marijuana.

St. Hilaire was not advocating for it on behalf of his commission, but the subject is a familiar one. For example, Washington has the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board. In Oregon, the enforcement of liquor and marijuana law is up to the Oregon Liquor Control Commission. And the New Hampshire commission studying legalization heard earlier this year from Erika McConnell, director of the Alaska Alcohol & Marijuana Control Office. 

State Rep. Dan Eaton, a Democrat from Stoddard, voted in favor of a bill earlier this year to legalize up to an ounce of marijuana for adults. He says it makes sense that the New Hampshire Liquor Commission would be involved in the hypothetical legalization of recreational pot. 

“I think that’s the most logical,” he tells NHPR. “They’ve got the experience. They’ve got the background. They’ve got the infrastructure.”

St. Hilaire and Mark Armaganian, director of Liquor Enforcement, spoke to the study commission on March 5th. They noted that any state oversight would require a significant educational and awareness campaign, as well as an increase in staffing.

Per some of the testimony, there are concerns that legalization of marijuana may lead to a decrease in state liquor sales, a trend other states have seen. 

Eaton says New Hampshire should proceed with legalization, where it will be surrounded by states that allow adults to consumer marijuana.

“But if we don’t jump into the fray, we’re going to get all the opposite side of the benefits from the contiguous states and that complicates things. We need to be in the mix and in the play,” he says.

That may not happen any time soon, however, as Governor Chris Sununu has repeatedly said he is opposed to legalization.

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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