Cannabis Bill Supporters Remain Hopeful Something Will Pass This Session

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Marijuana plant and a joint.


CONCORD – Adult cannabis legalization supporters are voicing optimism that a negotiated bill between House and Senate conferees could lead to passage this session despite a lack of concurrence between the two chambers on the bill.

Four House members and three Senate members will meet to try to reconcile differences in versions of House Bill 1633, and Tim Egan of the NH Cannabis Association said he is pleased with the makeup of that group.

The members of the committee are state Rep. John Hunt, R-Rindge, who advocated the House pass the Senate’s version and is chair of the Commerce Committee, Senate President Jeb Bradley, R-Wolfeboro, who heavily edited the House version in amendments meant to make the bill capable of being signed by Gov. Chris Sununu, a Republican, state Rep. Jason Osborne, R-Auburn, who was the leader last year in an adult recreational cannabis bill that failed to pass the Senate, state Sen. Tim Lang, R-Sanbornton, one of the Republican senators who voted for the bill last week, Sen. Shannon Chandley, D-Amherst, who also supported the Senate version, Rep. Anita Burroughs, D-Bartlett, and Jane Beaulieu, D-Manchester.

Initially, the House Speaker had called for Rep. Keith Ammon, R-Wilton, to be on the committee but he was replaced by Osborne.

“This sounds like folks who want to negotiate,” said Egan, a former state Representative from Sugar Hill late Thursday after the House voted to form a committee of conference.

One of the key concerns for Egan between the House and Senate version is the implementation date which the Senate put off until 2026 when they expect the first of 15 stores to open under the franchise model controlled by the state Liquor Commission.

The committee of conference has not yet set up a time to meet but it will likely be in the next few days. The committee must come to a unanimous decision on new language and then be sent back to both chambers for a final vote before the bill would head to the governor’s desk.

Only the Senate President and the Speaker of the House can remove a member from the committee.

Bradley has said he does not support legalization but believes he has the responsibility to put up the best possible bill to ensure “a good product.”

Progressive Democrats in the House caucused to oppose the Senate version of the bill.

The Senate voted 14-10 to support its version of HB 1633 and when it got to the House floor the vote to concur was 117-252, to non-concur, 173-196 and to form a committee of conference 261-108.

In a statement Thursday, Devon Chaffee, executive director of the ACLU of New Hampshire, said, “We are disappointed in the lack of consensus thus far around the bill to legalize marijuana. This isn’t just a squabble about the economic benefits – the war on marijuana has real-life impacts. We urge the committee of conference members to come together and prove that they will take action now instead of kicking the can down the road and continuing to needlessly ensnare around a thousand people — disproportionately Black people — in New Hampshire’s criminal justice system every year, simply for marijuana possession…”

Chaffee said the vast majority of Granite Staters, nearly three-fourths according to polling, support legalizing marijuana.

There are 61 committees of conference, most planning their first meetings for next week, but no date and time has been set for the cannabis conferences. To look at all of the bills and get information on when and where they will meet visit this link for updates on HB 1633

The Committee of Conference meetings will be streamed on the NH House of Representatives Committee Streaming YouTube channel for House bills and New Hampshire Senate Livestream YouTube channel for Senate bills.

According to NH.Gov, “Every bill must be passed in identical form by each both the House and the Senate before it is sent to the Governor. If a bill has been amended by the non-originating body, it is sent back to the originating body for concurrence.

“At this point, there are three options: The originating body concurs, or agrees, and the bill is sent to the Governor. The originating body non-concurs, or does not agree, and requests a Committee of Conference (COC) between the two bodies. In this case, the Speaker of the House or Senate President normally appoints a conference committee of members of both houses to work out a compromise. The originating body does not concur, no COC is requested, and the bill dies.”

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