One of New Hampshire’s top champions of marijuana legalization in the senate changes his tune Tuesday, announcing it was not the right time to pass a sweeping legalization bill.
“I don’t think the state is ready for legalization at this time,” said Sen. Harold French, in brief remarks before the Senate Judiciary Committee, arguing the bill needs to be “fixed” first.
French, a Franklin Republican, made the remarks shortly before the committee 4-0 to shelve this year’s legislation bill. That recommendation would be taken up by the full senate in January. The vote signals the latest setback for the legislation campaign in New Hampshire, which for months struggled to overcome opposition in the state senate and governor’s office.
In Tuesday’s vote, the senators recommended sending house bill 481 to “interim study,” a move that would effectively nullify the bill for the rest of the legislative session.
Championed by Rep. Renny Cushing, House Bill 481 is the last eat attempt to legalize cannabis in the granite state 2017. New Hampshire decriminalized specific quantities of cannabis, meaning anyone in possession of three quarters of an ounce of marijuana or less is subject to a fine but not arrest.
Cushing’s bill would have created a regulation and taxation scheme, allowing commercial vendors to sale cannabis and cannabis products and pay a tax to the state. The proposed law would allow personal possession of up to six marijuana plants, and would establish an enforcement bureau to regulate stores across the state.
The retail and taxation scheme was pitched as a way to raise revenue and bring in out-of-state business, but critics said it would encourage widespread irresponsible use.
In an interview in September, Cushing acknowledged the backlash and said moving forward, his efforts would not include retail or taxation.
In January 2018, then attorney general Jeff sessions rescinded the “Cole Memo,” a department of justice policy under president Barack Obama that said that the department would not carry out marijuana enforcement in states that have passed legalization efforts. The decision has weighed on some lawmakers, who say it’s unclear whether Granite State residents would be at risk of federal prosecution even if marijuana were legalized.