CONCORD --- The New Hampshire House Ways and Means Committee adopted an amendment Tuesday on HB 492, a bill that would regulate marijuana similarly to alcohol. The amendment, which would simplify the tax structure and improve regulations for the legal marijuana industry, was approved by a subcommittee earlier this morning in a 5-0 vote. The Ways and Means Committee voted 14-5 to adopt the subcommittee's amendment, and then it voted 14-5 to recommend that the House not pass the bill.
The House of Representatives already approved HB 492 once, in January, after overturning a similarly negative recommendation from the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee. The bill will now return to the full House for a second vote. If approved, it will then be considered by the state Senate.
Rep. Frank Sapareto (R-Derry), a member of the subcommittee, said he was very pleased with the committee's adoption of the amendment: "We have developed what will be a workable and responsible system of regulating marijuana in New Hampshire."
He added: "New Hampshire has effectively regulated the production and sale of alcohol, and there is no reason why we cannot capitalize on that experience to effectively regulate the production and sale of marijuana."
HB 492, introduced by Rep. Steve Vaillancourt (R-Manchester) with a bipartisan group of four co-sponsors, would make the private possession and home growing of limited amounts of marijuana legal for adults 21 and older. It would direct the New Hampshire Department of Revenue Administration and other state agencies to license and regulate marijuana retail stores, cultivation facilities, product manufacturing facilities, and testing facilities. As amended by the committee, it would place a $60/ounce wholesale tax on cultivators, and vertical integration would be prohibited. Cultivators, product manufacturing facilities, marijuana testing facilities, and retail marijuana stores would be separately licensed and regulated.
"Members of the committee should be congratulated for seriously considering how best to tax and regulate marijuana like alcohol in the Granite State," said Matt Simon, the New Hampshire-based New England political director for the Marijuana Policy Project, which lobbied in support of the bill. "Even with a negative recommendation, this thoughtful amendment will make it much more likely that the bill will receive continued support from the rest of the legislature. We are optimistic that New Hampshire lawmakers will recognize that their constituents do not want to see adults arrested for using a substance that is safer than alcohol."
Sixty percent of New Hampshire adults support HB 492, according to a WMUR Granite State Poll released in October by the University of New Hampshire Survey Center. Just 36% said they are opposed. The entire poll is available at http://cola.unh.edu/sites/cola.unh.edu/files/research_publications/gsp2013_fall_gastaxpot102513.pdf.