By CHRISTIAN WADE
THE CENTER SQUARE CONTRIBUTOR
(The Center Square) – New Hampshire’s GOP-led House of Representatives has voted to approve legalizing marijuana cultivation and possession for personal use in the state, but the measure must survive the likelihood of a veto by Gov. Chris Sununu.
The House on Thursday approved the legislation, which would allow adults 21 and older to possess up to three-quarters of an ounce of marijuana and to grow up to six plants. The bipartisan measure passed on a vote of 241-113, which is more than is needed for a veto-proof majority.
“This is truly a bipartisan issue with strong and wide support from Granite Staters,” state Rep. Mark Warden, R-Manchester, said in remarks ahead of the vote. “The war on cannabis is a war on people. Those people are our neighbors and our constituents.”
Under the plan, marijuana could be “gifted” to others but couldn’t be sold. Retail pot stores, similar to those in neighboring states, would also not be authorized.
There would also be penalties for public consumption and breaking the rules on home cultivation, such as growing pot in a publicly visible area.
To be sure, this isn’t the first time the 400-member House of Representatives has approved legislation legalizing marijuana. In 2014, the Democrat-controlled House first approved a legalization bill but it failed to pass the Senate. Similar proposals have been refiled every session, but have failed to gain traction.
The state has also allowed medical marijuana dispensaries since 2013, but cultivating the drug for personal use is still a felony.
Lawmakers approved a bill in 2019 that would have allowed medical pot patients to grow their own supply, but Sununu vetoed it, citing public safety concerns.
In October, the Legislature’s House Criminal Justice Committee rejected proposals that would legalize and tax marijuana. Republicans who voted against the measure cited opposition to taxing marijuana products.
To date, at least 18 states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. territory of Guam have legalized recreational marijuana, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Thirty six states have medical marijuana programs.
New Hampshire has often been described as a “cannabis island” with neighboring states and Canada allowing recreational marijuana cultivation and retail sales.
While the Granite State decriminalized marijuana possession in 2017, recreational growing and sales are not authorized.
The House-approved legalization bill now moves to the state Senate for consideration.