Senate Takes Historic Vote To Pass Legal Cannabis Sales in New Hampshire 14-9

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Paula Tracy photo

The NH Senate is pictured Thursday night as they continued debating marijuana legalization.

Franklin Police Chief David Goldstein and Derry Police Chief George Feole watch from the gallery as senators debate the bill to legalize marijuana. Paula Tracy photo


CONCORD – For the first time, legal, adult cannabis sales in New Hampshire were approved by the state Senate Thursday night, raising the potential for the state to set up as many as 15 state-run shops by 2025.

The vote shortly after 9 p.m. was 14-9. 

Five Republicans supported the measure, while one Democrat opposed it.

The Republicans supporting were state Sen. Howard Pearl, R-Loudon, Tim Lang, R-Sanbornton, Daryl Abbas, R-Salem, Dan Innis, R-Bradford and Keith Murphy, R-Manchester.

All Democrats with the exception of Lou D’Allesandro, D-Manchester, supported House Bill 1633-FN-A.

The bill is not the same as the House version which looked at a license sales model rather than a franchise model which has more strict control by the state and is supported by the governor.

This difference in versions means it must go back over the wall to the House to find consensus after the Senate Finance Committee reviews it and fleshes out the money involved and where it could go. 

The last step will be to see if it passes the test of the governor who has laid out a pathway to what he sees as “inevitable” and the Senate bill is largely what he was looking for.

Gov. Chris Sununu, a Republican who is not running for re-election, said he would be willing to support a legal cannabis sales bill with about eight provisions which keep it out of the hands of kids, and whose sales are controlled by the state through its Liquor Commission model.

The Senate also voted on a bill to ban sex altering surgery to those under the age of 18 on a vote of 13-10; a bill which would give parents two weeks notification before a school’s plans to present curriculum related to gender identity thereby expanding a law related to sex education; and agreed to a number of provisions the House already supported as the session winds down for the year.

The marijuana bill, House Bill 1633-FN  was introduced by Sen. James Gray, R-Rochester who said as in the military when they were expecting incoming fire, “smoke em if you’ve got ’em” to laughter.

Abbas introduced his version of the bill.

While no cannabis policy will be perfect he said this balances the concerns and will allow more state control and more penalties than currently exist for public use. Many are buying it out of state and the state is losing that revenue, Abbas said. New Hampshire will see a financial benefit of this which can be used to offset some of the drawbacks.

It would be a franchise model, Abbas said, with a maximum of one per municipality with the exception of Nashua and Manchester which could have more. The stores can’t be closer than 2,000 feet to a school and the community needs to approve it by a vote. 

In southern New Hampshire, on the Haverhill, Mass.  border there are stores right up to the state line.

“We are dealing with a lot of the negative impacts already,” he said. Colorado was not surrounded by recreational weed. We have no control on what is going on outside the border.

“We are dealing with the negative impact without any benefits at all,” Abbas said.

He said polls show that more than 70 percent of voters support legal weed. There are problems with the black market for cannabis, but other states don’t do anything. Having liquor enforcement be in charge, we would have a large law enforcement presence on day one, he said. 

The therapeutic industry is not going to be guaranteed a license though they are welcome to apply and this does not give them away to them. It does factor in their experience, he noted.

A study commission discussed a franchise fee but that can be discussed in the Finance Committee.

A motion to table the bill was made by Sen. Bill Gannon, R-Sandown.

“If I believe that the people of New Hampshire deserve a robust debate on legalization,” Sen. Becky Whitley, D-Hopkinton, said, “would I vote no on the tabling motion.” The motion to table failed on a vote of 8-15.

Gannon asked if this will not just flood communities with more stores.

Massachusetts has over 300 stores, many of which are going out of business, Abbas said. 

He said it would be dishonest to say that there would be less cannabis in the state, he said, but he noted that many of the border stores have New Hampshire customers now.

The black market is going to be cheaper, Gannon said, and that might make people have a false sense of security at parties.

“Cannabis is not safe,” Abbas said. “Neither is alcohol.” He said there is money in the bill to add to education.

All Democrats but D’Allesandro supported the measure.

He said he could not get a gambling bill passed, despite 80 percent support in polls.

“A lot of things happen here that are all screwed up,” he said. “I entered these halls in 1972,” he said, and he recognizes that “grass is pervasive, but is it good?”

Each one of us makes a decision based on what we perceive is in the best interest of the people we serve, he said. 

He said he voted for medical marijuana and “I stand by that position. But I say to you my colleagues that if it passes…we will all live with the results.”

“I have made every effort in my 50 years to make life better for those I serve,” D’Allesandro said. “I don’t think this will make life better.”

Sen. Sharon Carson, R-Londonderry, asked if the idea that police could enforce prohibitions in the bill for smoking in public. D’Allesandro said he did not think it was enforceable.

Gannon said he believes it will not be good for tourism.

Members of the law enforcement community were in the gallery listening to testimony and opposed the bill including the police chiefs of Manchester, Franklin, Hudson, Derry and a few former chiefs from Dover and  Goffstown.

Senate President Jeb Bradley, R-Wolfeboro, offered an amendment which would give 65 percent of the revenue to property tax relief. It was adopted.

He asked those like himself who do not support the bill to pass it and said this improves the funding distribution. 

The amended bill also includes 10 percent for children’s behavioral health and 10 percent for public safety support. He noted 15 percent goes to alcohol abuse and prevention. 

Another aspect deals with municipalities which would have to elect to host a store and there would likely be a percentage of the total fees collected going to them, which might be hammered out in the Senate Finance Committee. One version looks to allow communities to have 15 percent.

Other aspects of the bill include that no home grown is allowed. 

Smoking in public would be prohibited with a $100 fine for the first offense and $500 for the second. In both cases it would involve confiscation of weed in possession of those smoking in public. 

Driving while smoking weed would be illegal and drivers could face a loss of license of up to 60 days. Landlords could prohibit pot smoking as could private property owners on their property. 

No nicotine or alcohol could be mixed in cannabis for sales. 

No lobbying would be allowed by the cannabis industry for future legislation.

Concentration levels of THC could be regulated.

A Cannabis control commission would be established which would include the prevention community, Bradley stressed.

“Don’t just sit here voting ‘no’, hoping the bill dies…vote to protect kids. Vote to protect their health and safety,” Bradley said. “We could make this bill better with this amendment,” he said, asking apologies for “my screeching.” 


HB 1350-FN, which would increase the amount of medicinal marijuana a therapeutic patient can have, was referred to interim study, noting that federal officials are looking to reclassify cannabis for its therapeutic value now. It also sent to the same place HB 1539 which would allow for additional annulments for cannabis offenses.

The governor was asked Wednesday about the various versions to get to legal weed sales for adults.

He said he prefers the franchise model which is a unique opportunity to “get it right” because of the state’s controlled Liquor Commission which could act unlike any other of the more than 20 other states in terms of control.

“Other states that don’t control it like that have really screwed up their process. Their systems don’t work for a variety of reasons. Local communities are frustrated with having pot shops on every corner. So that is the opportunity that we have over other states in that the state would control all aspects of marketing, location and retail sales.”

He said he would be “okay” with a model whereby state employees operate and control the sales as long as all the other aspects of control are maintained by the state.


The Senate voted to pass a bill which would prohibit those under the age of 18 from sexual reassignment surgery. House Bill 619-FN now goes to Finance.


Parents will get notification two weeks in advance of the curriculum which includes information about gender and sexual identity under a bill passed 13-10. It passed the House by one vote. 

Its next action step will be the governor’s desk where it could be signed into law or vetoed.

House Bill 1312 expands existing parental notice requirements when curriculum course materials address sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, or gender expression. It also prohibits school districts from adopting policies that prohibit personnel from answering parents’ questions about their child’s mental, emotional, and physical health or well-being.

Lang said the measure expands an already existing rule for teachers to notify parents and said he did not see why such issues should be controversial as there should be no secrets between teachers and parents. 

It would not limit that curriculum, he said, merely notify them of it in advance that it will be taught.

Sen. David Watters, D-Dover said the bill “sounds like a festival of billable hours to me,” saying it would not likely pass legal muster and benefit lawyers.

Carson said “this is about all the crap that is being taught in our public schools today.

“Parents are upset because of what is being taught to their children and they want to know,” she said, noting that during COVID-19 she heard from parents who were learning about “what their children were being exposed to.”

“All this bill does is let us know what is going on,” Carson said.

Parents can talk about issues better when they know in advance the matters are going to be covered in schools, she said.

Lang said there are 160,000 New Hampshire public school students and their parents who are impacted by this and would benefit by advanced notice on curriculum that involves potentially “objectionable” material, not only sex education but gender issues in general which are outside that current notice.

Sen. Donovan Fenton, D-Keene said the bill would require notice for any time a gender issue comes including reading in the classroom about Mr. and Mrs. Mallard in the book “Make Way for Ducklings” because the gender of the parents of the ducklings are included in the curriculum.

Sen. Ruth Ward, R-Stoddard in a statement following the vote, said, “We already have a requirement in law that parents should be given two weeks’ notice of material that some may find objectionable. This includes instruction on sexuality and sex education. This seems to include topics such as sexual orientation and gender identity, but not all schools are following the law this way. This bill adds those terms so parents have time to review the curriculum materials, determine if it is objectionable, or have a conversation with their child about what they are going to be taught.” 

The Senate Democrats issued the following statement:

“To ask teachers to consider if they need to notify parents two weeks prior to reading books like “Make Way for Ducklings” or teaching the difference between gato and gata (Spanish) is not only a ridiculous concept, but also completely unfeasible. By passing HB 1312, Senate Republicans continue their attacks on public education, the LGBTQ+ community, and the free exchange of ideas.” 

The state’s largest teacher union said the bill would dramatically extend the state’s current 2-week notice requirement for objectionable materials to include any curriculum related to sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, or gender expression. 

Megan Tuttle, president of NEA-New Hampshire said, “It is alarming to see lawmakers supporting yet another attempt to chill classroom conversations by broad and vaguely expanding the state’s two-week notice requirements for so-called ‘objectionable material’ related to gender and sexual orientation. HB 1312 is so vague it could require a two-week notification for a math worksheet that mentions someone’s gender.”

“Educators and families work well together to support students, but this bill inserts politics into those critical relationships and could put teachers and support staff in impossible positions in determining which actions or conversations could put them or a student in jeopardy. NEA-New Hampshire urges Governor Sununu to veto HB 1312.” 

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