Pot sales by Liquor Commission plan scuttled; more options out there

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State Rep. Jane Beaulieu, D-Manchester, debates Liquor Commission control of cannabis sales with chair Rep. John Hunt, R-Rindge at the May 30, 2023, House Commerce and Consumer Affairs Committee. At the far right is Rep. Keith Ammon, R-New Boston.

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CONCORD, NH– An attempt to set up legal adult cannabis sales under the thumb of the state Liquor Commission was abandoned Tuesday by the House Commerce and Consumer Affairs Committee.

A reworked amendment that was deemed full of contradictions with some language maintaining full control by the liquor commission and other factors allowing dispensaries to also sell under a “dual use” proposal failed.

It never made it to a vote with the panel discussing it Tuesday but abandoned it before it got that far.

This effort has arisen after Gov. Chris Sununu said he wants to find path to legalization after previously maintaining now is not the time for legalization in New Hampshire.

On May 12, Sununu issued a surprise press release saying, “I am supportive of legalizing marijuana in the right way — with this legislature — rather than risk a poorly thought out framework that inevitably could pass under future governors or legislatures.”

Favoring a free market approach, Matt Simon, director of public relations for Prime Alternative Treatment Centers of New Hampshire, said after the vote scuttling the amendment, “I think it became clear that they would be better off focusing on a simple amendment that legalizes possession, and it is going to take more time on the retail aspects.”

Prime ATC operates dispensaries in Merrimack and Chichester. New Hampshire has three companies that provide such dispensaries also located in Dover, Conway, Plymouth, Lebanon, and Keene.

Prime ATC grows cannabis in small batches and sells it to the only people who can legally buy it in New Hampshire, those who have therapeutic authorization from their doctors.

At a hearing on the amendment last week, Simon said, “You are talking about a system where the only entity we can sell cannabis to is the state of New Hampshire and they decide the prices and they decide whether or not to buy the product. That is what we are saying is completely unworkable. That’s not a market.”

“There is language that says alternative treatment centers can engage in retail sales, become a dual use facility, as (killed) HB 639 allowed, and then there is language elsewhere that says all stores will be state-run.

“If it’s all stores are state-run, we’re talking about an unworkable boondoggle,” he told the committee.

Simon also testified that it wouldn’t be like a liquor store where you can get the finest spirits from all over the world.

It would be only New Hampshire-grown weed.

He told the same committee Tuesday that the business model would work if they could buy from others and offer products that consumers might want, outside of the limits placed on the liquor commission model.

And it comes down to rulemaking which may take some time, he acknowledged.

Legalizing cannabis may still come back in another form and in another bill this year.

The committee has retained House Bill 544 which relates to cannabis sales and is similar to the withdrawn amendment which could be worked on through the fall and come back Jan. 1.

A bill to legalize marijuana in House Bill 360 is tabled by the Senate.

Still, another bill, amended House Bill 611 in the Senate, sets up a commission to study sales as outlined by the governor with a report due back by December.

New Hampshire remains the only state in the region where adults cannot purchase cannabis except for those who qualify for therapeutic use.


About this Author

Paula Tracy

Veteran reporter Paula Tracy writes for InDepthNH.org