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Marijuana Legalization Advances as Senate Approves HB 1633 in New Hampshire

New Hampshire- The landscape of marijuana legalization in the United States is continually evolving, with New Hampshire now making significant strides toward legalization. Last week, the New Hampshire Senate passed a bill, House Bill 1633 (HB 1633), which could mark the beginning of legal adult-use cannabis in the state. However, this legislative milestone comes with several amendments and potentially a long road ahead before it becomes law.

New Hampshire has had several attempts to push through cannabis reform over the years, but last Thursday (May 23) marked a significant breakthrough. In a vote that saw bipartisan support, for the first time the Senate passed HB 1633 with a 14-10 majority.

Marijuana Legalization Bill HB 1633 Amendments From the Senate

The bill passed after lawmakers made significant changes to gain broader support and ensure Governor Chris Sununu would not veto it. Here are the key amendments:

  • Limiting Dispensaries: The number of cannabis dispensaries will be capped at 15.
  • Local Voter Approval: Local voters will have the final say before a cannabis store can open in their area.
  • Reduced Possession Limits: The legal possession limit has been reduced from 4 ounces to 2 ounces.
  • Delayed Rollout: The legal market rollout, initially planned for an earlier date, will now happen in 2026.
  • Strict Regulatory Control: The New Hampshire Liquor Commission will enforce strict regulatory controls.
  • Franchise Model: Cannabis will be sold under a franchise model, giving the state complete oversight over business operations.

Several key legislators have already signaled their intent to reject the bill in its current form when it returns to the House for concurrence on the recent amendments. Here are some of the controversial points:

  • Misdemeanor Penalty: Anyone found consuming cannabis in a vehicle could face a new misdemeanor penalty.
  • Increased Penalties for Selling to Minors: The bill steps up proposed penalties for selling marijuana to minors.
  • Mandatory Training and Reporting: The mandate requires annual training for industry employees and mandatory reporting of cannabis use disorder.
  • Immediate Legalization Rejected: The Senate rejected amendments that would have given licensing preference to in-state medical marijuana businesses and another that would have made cannabis possession immediately legal upon the bill’s passage.

The Road Ahead, House and Governor’s Desk

The next crucial step for HB 1633 is its return to the House of Representatives. Historically, the House has been supportive of cannabis liberalization bills, but the recent amendments could pose a significant obstacle. The House is set to vote on the Senate’s version of the bill next week.

Given the extensive changes made by the Senate, it is likely that the House will propose further amendments to HB 1633. This means the bill needs another round of voting before lawmakers can make a final decision.

If the House passes the amended bill, it will move to Governor Sununu’s desk for final approval. Governor Sununu has shown cautious support for the Senate’s plan but has warned he wouldn’t sign the earlier House-passed version.

If signed into law, New Hampshire will become the final state in the New England area to legalize adult-use cannabis, joining its neighbors in a growing movement toward cannabis reform.

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