With Final Report N.H. Pot Legalization Due, Commission Looks To Avoid ‘Consensus’

Oct 31, 2018

The final report of the marijuana study commission, which is due out Thursday, will feature something of a disclaimer: Some members want it known neither they nor their organization are staking out any position on recreational pot.

State Rep. Patrick Abrami, the chairman, says the qualifying language will be on the second or third page of the report. "Disclaimer" is his word.

"They're concerned about it being construed as an up or down vote, or even being construed as a consensus," he said in an interview.

The term "consensus" was cited as cause for concern for a few commission members, some of whom were appointed, for example, to represent a state agency. State officials from the departments of Banking, Justice, Safety, and Health and Human Services are among those with a seat on the study panel.

Commission member Kate Frey is vice-president of advocacy for New Futures.

“At the end of the day this is still a framework for commercializing and legalizing marijauna and as an organization we will contiue to oppose it,” she said at the last meeting.

Abrami says the commission is not taking sides. He says the report will strike a balance.

Rep. Patrick Abrami, R-Stratham, the chairman of the marijuana legalization study commission.
Credit Dan Tuohy / NHPR

It will present the pros and cons of marijuana legalization for state lawmakers as they consider any future bills to legalize it. And several bills are expected for this upcoming legislative session.

“It seems all everybody wants to focus on are the taxes and the revenues,” says Abrami.

 

The projected revenue yield is $57 million. The chairman says at least $13 million would be needed for regulations and enforcement, including prevention.

 

Some Highlights Expected in Final Report

(Based on a draft of the study, and interviews with Abrami)

  • Possession: Up to 1 ounce legal for adults (21+). Public consumption prohibited. (The eight states that have legalized and commercialized marijuana set 21 as the legal age.)
  • Possession of concentrates should be limited to 6 grams.
  • Oversight: Establish a Cannabis Commission, in the mold of the N.H. State Liquor Commission and Lottery Commission.
  • Establish a standalone Cannabis Commission for licensing, regulations, and enforcement. In addition, form a Cannabis Commission advisory board.
  • Oppose provisions that allow marijuana smoking or consumption in hotels, lounges or social clubs--or restaurants that infuse food with cannabis.
  • Allow four licenses: cultivation, manufacturing, retail stores, and testing.
  • Feature an opt-in provision for municipalities, so that towns and cities have a say in whether or not a cultivation, manufacturing or retail store is within their community. It would be three separate questions put to citizens.
  • Require standard criminal background checks for owners of licensed establishments.
  • Use of a warning and unique symbol on marijuana packaing, and tamper proof packaging for edibles. Restrictions on advertising and proximity to school property.
  • Allow limited home cultivation.
  • Provide a “pathway” for existing therapeutic cannabis dispensaries, so-called Alternative Treatment Centers which are non-profits, to adopt a for-profit model.

The commission received testimony and data from every state that has legalized recreational pot. It has fielded public input from advocates and opponents.

Matt Simon, New England political director for the Marijuana Policy Project, said the commission's work was a good learning experience for all involved. He says the report's recommendations will provide a good start for the legislature when it begins work on anticipated legislation next year.

"That being said, I believe this year's election results are likely to have a much greater impact on the future of cannabis policy than anything that is or isn't in the commission's report," Simon said.

In a statement last week, Frey said her organization remains concerned that the report will not sufficiently address the harms of possible legalization.

"Despite questions rasied by several presenters, reports and studies, the report has thus far not included recommendations or strategies for addressing increased rates of youth use and detrimental health impacts of highly potent products," she said.

Abrami has talked about potency at several of the 27 meetings the commission has held since created by an act of the Legislature in 2017.  He raised it again in an interview this week. 

“This is not," he said, "your grandpa’s weed anymore."

The final report of the commission will be available online sometime Thursday.

An excerpt of the draft marijuana study report.