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Navigating NH’s complex path to cannabis legalization

In a significant milestone for New Hampshire’s cannabis legalization efforts, the House passed a bill, HB 1633, with a margin of 239-136. However, Governor Chris Sununu has expressed concerns about the bill not aligning with his vision of a tightly controlled state-run retail model for cannabis outlets. The bill is now under the scrutiny of the Senate Judiciary Committee, with various stakeholders working towards a compromise that satisfies all parties and complies with federal laws.

Governor Sununu’s shift in stance on cannabis legalization surprised many in May 2023 when he announced support for a bill that met specific criteria, including a retail model operated by the state to regulate sales. The House bill proposes licensing up to 15 retail establishments for adult use and purchase of cannabis, a divergence from Sununu’s preference for a franchise model.

The debate over the franchise vs. license model stems from legal implications, with concerns about potential FTC regulation of state-run stores under a franchise model conflicting with federal laws prohibiting cannabis. To address these concerns, a potential compromise has emerged in discussions between stakeholders and senators, proposing a trigger clause to switch to a licensee model if the franchise model faces legal challenges.

With the bill now in the hands of the Senate Judiciary Committee, efforts are underway to find a middle ground that satisfies Governor Sununu’s requirements without losing support in the House. The proposed compromise aims to bridge the gap between differing views on the best approach to retail cannabis sales, ensuring a viable path forward for legalization in New Hampshire.

As discussions continue among key legislators and legalization advocates, the window of opportunity for enacting cannabis legalization in New Hampshire is seen as now or never, especially with uncertainty surrounding future gubernatorial support. The outcome of these negotiations will determine the fate of cannabis legalization in the state, shaping the regulatory framework for retail cannabis sales moving forward.

For the latest updates on New Hampshire’s cannabis legalization efforts and the ongoing debate over the proposed bill, stay tuned for developments from the Senate Judiciary Committee and potential compromises that could pave the way for legal cannabis sales in the state.

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