CONCORD, N.H. (AP) – The New Hampshire Senate on Thursday rejected two marijuana legalization bills, one that would’ve created a state-run monopoly for retail sales and another more modest plan to allow small-scale personal use and home cultivation of the drug.
Both bills previously passed the House, but the Senate once again stood as a roadblock, ensuring New Hampshire for now will remain a holdout surrounded by states that have approved recreational legalization. But opponents said the fact that marijuana is legal in Maine, Vermont and Massachusetts meant nothing to them.
“I’m not ashamed of that, I’m proud of that,” said Sen. Bob Giuda, R-Warren.
He and other opponents said they were concerned that legalizing marijuana would lead to increases in teen marijuana use and traffic fatalities. And they rejected arguments that polling has shown that most adults in the state support legalization.
“It may be what people want, but it’s not what we as a Senate should enable them to do because it will cause harm,” he said.
The more elaborate bill would have given the state Liquor Commission authority to regulate and administer the cultivation and sale of marijuana in at least 10 retail stores. That plan was rejected without debate on a voice vote, while the other bill was defeated 15-9.
The second measure would have allowed adults to possess up to ¾ of an ounce of marijuana and to grow up to six plants. It could be traded or given away but not sold.
Sen. Becky Whitley, D-Hopkinton, argued unsuccessfully that the bill was necessary to put the state more in line with its neighbors and with a more modern understanding of cannabis. She cast it as a racial justice issue, noting that Black people are disproportionately prosecuted for marijuana offenses.
“The so-called war on marijuana has not worked,” she said. “It does not make us safer, it wastes taxpayer dollars and it has needlessly ruined lives.”
Sen. Sharon Carson, R-Londonderry, said passing the bills would’ve put constituents in the middle of a conflict between state and federal law.
“In that fight, we know who is going to win, and it’s not going to be us. And people are the ones who are going to be hurt,” she said. “Maybe they’re all going to smoke so much pot they won’t care – they’ll be oblivious – but we care, and we should care about putting our constituents in difficult situations.”
New Hampshire legalized medical marijuana in 2013. The House has approved recreational marijuana bills several times since then, but the Senate traditionally has opposed them, as has Gov. Chris Sununu.