Senate Finalizes Legal Weed Bill, Now On to the House

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State Sen. Daryl Abbas, R-Salem, speaks in favor of legalizing cannabis late Thursday night during the Senate session.


CONCORD – Despite concerns that it will “change the fabric of our state,” cannabis sales for adults in the 603 got one big step closer late Thursday night, after the Senate finalized support for a bill that largely fits the model  Gov. Chris Sununu said he would support.

The vote on the amended House Bill 1633 was 14-10 with Republican Senators Dan Innis, of Bradford, Keith Murphy of Manchester, Tim Lang of Sanbornton, Howard Pearl of Loudon and Daryl Abbas of Salem voting with nine Democrats. The only Democrat to oppose HB 1633 was Sen. Lou D’Allesandro of Manchester.

This is the franchise model which will allow the state Liquor Commission to set up up to 15 stores and legalization would begin Jan. 1, 2026.

It passed just before midnight after an hour of debate.  

It now heads to the House which passed a different model which was less likely to be supported by Sununu.

Senate President Jeb Bradley, R-Wolfeboro, who opposed legalization but worked on many amendments on HB 1633 to place guardrails said those in the minority on this matter should feel that this is a better product than what the House presented.

“As this bill leaves this body tonight,” he said and goes to the House “we need to fortify our efforts.”

Cannabis legalization supporters panned the changes made in the Senate and said its delay will only mean people continue to go out of state until 2026 to buy their weed, as it is legal in every bordering state and the Province of Quebec.

Sen. Regina Birdsell, R-Hampstead urged the body to reject the complicated, heavily amended bill saying that she worries for adolescents “because they will get their hands on it,” and said studies have shown teens who use cannabis are two to four times more likely to deal with depression and mental health issues.

Listing a number of programs which the state has spent millions on to protect and care for mental health issues she asked the Senate to “think twice to what is going to happen down the road.”

But Sen. Cindy Rosenwald, D-Nashua, rose in support of the measure.

She said data shows teen cannabis use did not increase in the 24 states that have passed adult legalized cannabis.

“Legalization is not without potential risk,” of course, she said, adding studies show some evidence for driving under the influence.

Sen. William Gannon, R-Sandown, said legalization will not make New Hampshire a safer place.

Sen. Daryl Abbas, R-Salem, said he tried to mitigate harm with his version of the bill the House passed.

One major important thing to him is that the state has more control over the black market because day one, the Liquor Commission will have control.

Anyone using pot in a vehicle, be it passenger or driver it will still be a penalty which can result in a loss of license, he said.

In regards to the selection of potential franchisees, he said he thinks the criteria is reasonable because it will allow the Cannabis Control Commission to determine what is fair.

“It was a lot of work that went into this and the bill is better….and we worked together on this,” he said.

Sen. Sharon Carson, R-Londonderry, said it is no secret she opposes legal cannabis sales in the Granite State and she outlined some data which support her concern for the health impacts.

Marijuana just sits there in the brain, she said, and promotes adaptation and even if they quit smoking pot it can persist, especially at high potency levels of today. 

Marijuana traffic deaths have increased in Colorado, the first state to legalize, she said.

“We’ve heard testimony about youth. They are getting it,” she said. “I hope this cannabis commission puts enough guardrails around it, and protects pregnant women.

“This is going to change the fabric of our state and I just want people to be aware of it,” Carson said.

Sen. Lou D’Allesandro, D-Manchester was the only Democrat to oppose it. While he said he supported medical marijuana, he cannot support the legalization for adults based on concern for mental health impacts. 

“Why are we always looking for an artificial stimulant to make us feel better?” he asked. “I feel good all the time…because I think I have the right attitude.”

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