No Deal Yet on Legal Weed Sales, Senate Wants To Keep Franchise Fee at 15%

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State Reps. Anita Burroughs, D-Glen, and John Hunt, R-Rindge discuss legalizing adult cannabis sales Wednesday at the committee of conference.


CONCORD – There is no consensus yet on legalizing weed in the 603 but it is coming down to the wire Thursday and the focus is narrowed.

House and Senate members in a committee of conference are still trading “asks” as a deadline looms to make a deal by Thursday at 4 p.m.

Senators want to keep the franchise fee, essentially the tax rate on weed at 15 percent rather than the House’s 12.5 percent and the Senate President said he would have a big problem with immediate decriminalization for possession of up to 2 ounces upon passage of an adult cannabis sales bill, but might consider a lesser amount, House conferees were told on Wednesday.

The House had suggested on Tuesday a reduction in that tax rate of 12.5 percent at the franchise level and wanted to see immediate decriminalization, with the current level of three-quarters of an ounce permissible for possession without legal penalty.

House members said Tuesday they would agree to the Senate version of the bill, which is favored by the governor. They added one more request Wednesday of two new positions on a to-be-created cannabis control board asking that they be people who are in the industry, including one representing the Alternative Treatment Centers.

The committee of conference has to be unanimous and if they can’t get to agreement the bill dies. They meet next on Thursday at 11 a.m.

If they do come to an agreement and Gov. Chris Sununu signs the bill, the state could authorize up to 15 stores. The state, surrounded by other states with legal adult use cannabis, could receive about $35 million a year in sales that are now being spent outside the state, proponents claim.

It would be unlike any other state in that the New Hampshire Liquor Commission would control it, just as they do alcohol. There would be no home grown allowed in the bill.

The Senate passed their version of the bill with help from some Republicans but it is different than one which passed the House.

Yet both chambers agreed to a committee of conference to work out differences in versions.

On Tuesday it began with House conferees saying they would agree to the Senate’s version of the bill with four changes including immediate increase in decriminalization levels, and a reduction in pre-sales tax from 15 to 12.5 percent and giving preference for franchise agreements Alternative Treatment Centers. Another “ask” was to allow those who have a cannabis card to be allowed to consume gummies in a car in which they are a passenger without criminal implications. 

They adjourned Tuesday for the Senate to consider the offer and on Wednesday, state Rep. John Hunt, R-Rindge, who chairs the committee of conference began by asking what the Senate has to say.

Senate President Jeb Bradley, R-Wolfeboro, who voted against the bill but has maintained he needs to work on it to see the best possible product, said the “gummies in the pocket for passengers is OK,” referring to cannabis patients. He said the provision that gives Alternative Treatment Centers preference for franchises is also OK.

But, “the franchise fee we are not OK with,” referring to the reduction from 15 percent to 12.5 percent and said the Senators on the committee are “still discussing the decriminalization timing and amounts.”

Hunt asked if the bill is ultimately decriminalizing possession of up to 2 ounces by January, 2026 and no one today prosecutes anyone for possession of such an amount, what is the harm. 

Sen. Tim Lang, R-Sanbornton, said the problem is the “black market culture” and that it would allow the black market “a leg up” until full legalization.

State Rep. Anita Burroughs, D-Glen, said she was not comfortable with the makeup of the cannabis commission in the Senate version and would like to see something closer to the House version and came up with an amendment that would allow for two more positions: one as board member or officer of an Alternative Treatment Center and the second, a person with industry knowledge in cannabis retail. 

Hunt said to Bradley that some believe the Senate’s list of members on the cannabis commission include those who would undermine the statute.

As for the 15 percent, Bradley said “I’m not inclined to lower the franchise fee.”

Lang said he has no interest in the state becoming the “marijuana mecca” by severely lowering the tax on it and drawing others to come here. 

Sen. Shannon Chandley, D-Amherst, said starting at 15 seems the reasonable place to go.

“It’s much easier to lower a tax,” she said.

Hunt said they started at 10 percent in the House so 12.5 was offered as a pure compromise between the Senate’s 15 percent.

State Rep. Jason Osborne, R-Auburn, said if we want to make sure the black market goes away, getting that tax as low as possible is the way to do it.

Osborne said the ask of the two board members on the cannabis commission could replace some House concerns about tax.

Bradley then said he is going to have a very hard time with going for decriminalization of two ounces upon passage.

Hunt asked what is wrong with accelerating decriminalization.

The committee returns tomorrow as other conference committees are also coming down to the deadline with no resolution yet.


Work continues for conferees on House Bill 1665 which would expand the state’s Education Freedom Account from 350 to 400 percent of the federal poverty level for family income to qualify and extend phase out dates for school district compensation.

They met briefly Wednesday with an offer from the Senate rejected by the House but the two sides agreed to recess until 9 a.m. on Thursday.

State Sen. Tim Lang, R-Sanbornton, offered from the Senate side to extend by two years rather than three the phase out dates for schools to receive compensation, going from 2028 rather than 2029 and to strip section 5 completely from the bill in a section which the House would not agree to.

The Senate members then caucused in the hallways before coming out and two sides agreed to work on the bill more on Thursday.

This will be the third day for working on the bill with the deadline for agreement at 4 p.m. Thursday. 

The House killed the Senate’s EFA expansion bill, Senate Bill 442, but the Senate put the contents of that bill on the House’s expansion bill, eliminating the House’s plan.

The Senate-approved bill lowers the eligibility for the program from the House approved 500 percent to 400 percent of the federal poverty level, reducing the estimated increase in state costs to about $55 million from $70 million to $80 million annually.

The Senate’s version also reduces the amount of money the Children’s Scholarship Fund NH may retain for administering the program from 10 to 8 percent, extends the phaseout grants to school districts losing students to the EFA program for two years now, requires the Department of Education to track the money for the grants and allows school districts to receive additional state adequacy aid for EFA students who take a course at a public school in grades seven through 12.

The EFA program provides an average per pupil grant of $5,255 to about 4,700 students this school year, up from the 1,600 students when the program began three years ago when the average grant was $4,952. 

The current rate of 350 percent limits income to $109,200 for a family of four and $71,540 for a family of two.

(Garry Rayno contributed to this report)


A bill requiring the detainment of someone in jail if they are an illegal immigrant under House Bill 1292 was debated Wednesday with no outcome, but plans are for the committee to meet again on Thursday at 1:30 p.m.

Senate President Bradley said the Senate is trying to stop the problems seen in other states “which are out of control,” alluding to the high cost in Massachusetts of taking in illegal immigrants.

Opponents of his position, including Sen. Lou D’Allesandro, D-Manchester, who is also on the committee, said it sends the wrong message to the immigrant communities and threatens the balance and good relations they have with law enforcement.

“Nobody is supportive of the chiefs more than I am,” Bradley said. But the six chiefs who opposed the bill “are flat out wrong.”

State Rep. Terry Roy, R-Deerfield said no one is interested in harassing people with the bill.

“We are talking about criminals,” he said.

It would allow for police who arrest for a state issue to hold the individual if they become aware of an illegal immigrant issue where the individual was wanted by ICE.

“We should not be picking and choosing,” said Roy.

But those who have concern for the measure, including those with the ACLU-NH, said that it would place municipalities and the counties in legal jeopardy.

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