Bill to legalize pot dead – for now – but will be back

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The burgeoning marijuana industry is raising environmental concerns by some growers in California, particularly among water conservationists because a typical marijuana plant can consume up to 6 gallons of water per day. Photo by Nick Swyter/News21

CONCORD, NH — There will be no action taken in the Senate this session on a bill to legalize, tax and regulate recreational marijuana after the Senate voted Thursday to re-refer marijuana legalization legislation to committee.

Sen. Martha Hennessey, D-Hanover, recommended House Bill 481 be re-referred to committee so no action will occur until at least December or next year. Her motion passed on a voice vote late Thursday afternoon.

“The Judiciary Committee heard six hours of impassioned testimony over two hearings,” Hennessey said.

“We may disagree whether the prohibition of marijuana has been a success or whether we should remain an island within New England, but we all agree that this decision cannot be made lightly…,” Hennessey told senators.

Although the bill passed the House in April, there were not enough votes to override a veto by Gov. Chris Sununu. The House voted on an amended HB 481 that would tax weed at the lowest rate in the nation. It passed 200-163, but at the time concerned some lawmakers who opposed the tax structure.

There were other concerns expressed at public hearings. Bedford Police Chief John Bryfonski, speaking on behalf of the state chiefs of police association at one hearing, said the organization is adamantly opposed to the bill.

“This is about the debate to legalize and promote another intoxicant,” Bryfonski said. “Pay attention to science. Pay attention to the data.”

Rep. Renny Cushing D-Hampton, sponsor of the bill, said at a hearing that one-third of revenue from pot sales will go to the state departments of Health and Human Services and Safety and programs that deal with impacts on public health and substance misuse disorders across the board, while another third will go to local communities to help relieve high property taxes.

“It’s a really good bill that fits New Hampshire,” Cushing said.