CITIZEN VOICES® br> Marijuana legalization and taxation bill released
Jan 18, 2019
Are there limits on what consumers can do?
Just because cannabis is legal doesn’t mean a person could possess unlimited amounts of cannabis. Under Rep. Cushing’s bill an individual could possess:
- One ounce of cannabis in plant form
- Five grams of concentrated cannabis, including hashish
- Cannabis products containing no more than 500 milligrams of THC
- Three mature cannabis plants and three immature cannabis plants
The bill does allow limited home-growing of marijuana, provided the property owner takes precautions to secure the marijuana.
A landlord could choose to ban marijuana cultivation and consumption by tenants.
Rep. Cushing’s bill also prohibits public consumption of marijuana.
What are the taxes and revenue?
Rep. Cushing’s bill establishes taxes as follows:
- $30 per ounce on all cannabis flowers
- $10 per ounce on all parts of cannabis other than cannabis flowers and immature cannabis plants
- $15 per immature cannabis plant
The Department of Revenue Administration would be responsible for adjusting those tax rates annually based on the Consumer Price Index.
The taxes would not apply to medical marijuana.
The Department of Revenue Administration roughly estimates the bill would generate $19 to $31 million in the first year.
That tax revenue would be divided among the following:
- Administrative costs
- Substance abuse programs and public education about the safety risks of alcohol, tobacco, and cannabis
- Towns and cities where the cannabis was sold
- Police, fire, and rescue agencies
- The general fund of all tax revenue
It’s difficult to know what the final costs would be, but a 2018 study commission estimated it would cost the state between $9 and $13 million to legalize marijuana.
Who would be responsible for regulation?
The bill establishes a Cannabis Control Commission to oversee marijuana sales, similar to the Liquor Commission. The commission would be appointed by the governor and Executive Council, and could hire staff to carry out licensing, investigations, and so on.
That commission would be responsible for developing the regulations and licensing process for marijuana cultivation and sales, from fees to testing and labeling requirements. Rep. Cushing’s bill does include some guidelines for those regulations. For example, the commission must restrict marijuana advertising that could reach minors.
The bill also establishes a Cannabis Advisory Board, made up of members of law enforcement, business, social services, and many other fields. That board would be responsible for holding public hearings at least every six months and recommending marijuana regulations, laws, and taxes.
Would towns have a say?
Under Rep. Cushing’s bill, towns and cities could prohibit or limit marijuana establishments.
The bill also prohibits marijuana establishments within 1,000 feet of a school, unless a municipality overrides that rule.
The DUI issue
Right now, there is no reliable scientific test for marijuana intoxication, which makes it difficult to prosecute someone driving while high on marijuana.
This bill helps a little with that by prohibiting marijuana consumption by anyone in a moving vehicle. A driver smoking marijuana could have his or her license suspended for up to six months on a first offense, not to mention a fine of $500.
Annulment of past marijuana offenses
The bill has a provision that would make it easier for New Hampshire residents to annul past convictions for marijuana possession.
Don’t forget about hemp
The bill also legalizes and regulates hemp farming.
Arguments for, against marijuana legalization
The debate over marijuana legalization has been going on for years.
Supports of Rep. Cushing’s bill point to New Hampshire’s neighboring states that have already legalized marijuana. New Hampshire residents interested in marijuana can just hop across the border. The Granite State should at least capture tax revenue from these individuals.
Opponents of marijuana legalization – including Gov. Chris Sununu – argue New Hampshire should not legalize any drug in the middle of an addiction crisis. They are particularly concerned about minors gaining more access to marijuana after legalization.
Since Gov. Sununu opposes marijuana legalization, the Legislature would likely need to override his veto. It’s unclear if there is a super-majority of legislators who support legalization.
Do you support Rep. Renny Cushing’s bill to legalize and tax marijuana in New Hampshire?
Discussion held on Citizens Count website and Facebook page January 20, 2019
What Participants Said
Yes: 218 people were in favor of legalizing and taxing marijuana in NH.
- “Prescription pills are the gateway drug to Opium - NOT marijuana. Chris [Sununu] is just wrong on pot. It IS a drug, but so isn’t alcohol. There are obvious benefits of legalization and prohibition clearly doesn’t work.”
- “There is no justification for it to remain illegal. It’s proven to be less of a gateway drug than alcohol which is a huge money maker in our state. There has never been an overdose of cannabis. And in the states that have recreational use legal, there is a serious drop in opioid overdoses. It’s a victimless crime right now and just costs us tax money to prosecute those in possession.”
- “Yes! New Hampshire resident. Legalize recreational and medical. I don't use either, but using law enforcement resources and the courts to arrest and prosecute marijuana cases takes those resources away from more pressing problems, like Opiods!”
No: 50 people were opposed to legalizing and taxing marijuana in NH.
- “No … I don't think people should need to be given special permission from government to ingest a plant peaceably. I think complete decriminalization is the way to go. Instead of saying ‘you are allowed to do this now’ say ‘you never should have been punished for using it in the first place’.”
- “We don't need any more impaired drivers or addicts here.”
- “Legalization is the wrong move in the middle of an addiction crisis. It will only open the gates to make an already bad or problematic situation worse.”
Other: 45 citizens addressed their comments to related questions and issues.
- Jurisdiction: “Bring the vote to the people not to Concord.”
- Revenue allocation: “Give money to the damn teachers!!!! Law enforcement have plenty of funding.”
- Age limits: “Why 21 instead of 18?”
*Editor selection of actual participant quotes.