Debate Continues Over Cannabis Legalization In New Hampshire

A House committee this week recommended against a bill to legalize cannabis in the state – but advocates on both sides are continuing the debate.

Speaking today on NHPR’s The Exchange, Kate Frey, vice president of advocacy for New Futures, compares the cannabis industry to the big tobacco and big alcohol industries.

“It’s a profit-driven industry,” Frey says. “And once ‘Big Marijuana’ moves in, just like ‘Big Alcohol,’ then you have pot shops in your neighborhood, you have highly potent edible products targeted toward kids.”

State Rep. Frank Sapareto, who supports legalization, dismisses the concerns. He cites a UNH poll earlier this year that sixty-eight percent (68%) support legalizing cannabis for recreational use.

He says cannabis can be safely regulated in a way similar to alcohol.

The debate will continue into 2018, including a legislative study of possible legalization, regulation, and taxation. That commission meets next on Nov. 27.

Sapareto says the study commission was stacked with critics. It’s not required to produce a report until late 2018.

Cannabis legalization is only a matter of time in New Hampshire, according to Sapareto. And he believes the federal government, which still sees it as a schedule 1 drug, will soften its position.

Cannabis is legal in eight states and the District of Columbia, and all were through the ballot box, by voter referendum, said Karmen Hanson, a policy director of the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Sapareto says New Hampshire will be an island in New England, because neighboring states, and Canada, have moved to legalization.

“All those states that have no legalized it,” he says. “It’s just a wave coming. It’s a tsunami.”

Highlights from The Exchange show:

  • Hanson, at the NCSL, says Colorado, one of the states where recreational cannabis is legal, sees about 2 percent of its state revenues from cannabis.
  • A man from a manufacturer in Barrington called into the show to say legalization might make it harder for companies, such as his, to find people able to work shifts.
  • New Hampshire has a state law for medical marijuana. The state embraced “decriminalization,” removal of the penalty for possession of small amounts of cannabis, earlier this year.
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