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Cannabis plants growing at an indoor True North Collective facility are shown in Jackson, Mich., Wednesday, March 2, 2022.

Adults would be permitted to possess up to four ounces of marijuana, and state-licensed stores would be allowed to sell the drug under a proposal backed by Republican and Democratic leaders in the N.H. House.

Reps. Jason Osborne, R-Auburn, and Matt Wilhelm, D-Manchester, said in written statements Monday they are co-sponsoring the measure, which would also annul, or remove, records for past marijuana-possession offences.

Currently, there is a $100 penalty for possessing less than three-quarters of an ounce of pot.

“It is long past time that New Hampshire stops wasting scarce tax dollars and valuable local and state policing resources by continuing a restriction that has failed for decades and needlessly ruined the lives of many young and poor Granite Staters,” Wilhelm said.

“New Hampshire remains the only state in New England that has failed to legalise recreational cannabis, while our neighbours benefit from increased revenue and their cannabis users benefit from safer testing and regulation of the product.”

Marijuana sales would be subject to the 8.5 percent rooms and meals tax under the proposal.

“This bill brings a solution to pay off our pension liability, reduce property taxes, provide additional resources for law enforcement, while restricting minors from accessing cannabis,” Osborne said.

He said the vast majority of New Hampshire citizens support marijuana legalisation.

The House has passed marijuana legalisation measures before, including last legislative session, only to see them die in the Senate.

Such was the case with House Bill 1598, sponsored by Rep. Daryl Abbas, R-Salem, which envisioned selling marijuana at state-run stores, similar to the system for alcohol sales.

Rep. Jennifer Rhodes, R-Winchester, was one of the co-sponsors. She said last session that there is strong public interest in such legislation, especially since many other states, including those neighbouring New Hampshire, allow recreational use of the drug.

“I’ve been told by a lot of my constituents that it is far safer than alcohol, and of course that prohibition ended years and years ago,” she said. “This is something that a lot of people wanted and thought that it was necessary for New Hampshire.”

She said adults could use marijuana responsibly, and likened it to having a beer around a campfire.

The bill passed the House, 169-156, before it was rejected in a voice vote in the Senate.

Rep. Joe Schapiro, D-Keene, voted against HB 1598. One of his objections was the concept of selling it at state-run stores.

“My understanding was that is not a model enacted anywhere in the country, so it was a complete unknown,” he said Monday.

But he supports the new proposal, which would have the state licence retail marijuana outlets through a commission, but not run the stores.

“I like the fact that people with diverse ideologies came together to formulate this and it seems like a very organised effort to actually get something passed, which was not the case with last year’s bill,” Schapiro said. “I think this will get wide support in the House.”

He acknowledged it could be a harder sell in the Senate.

“But the Senate always has a changing cast of characters, so I’m not really sure now,” he said.

N.H. Sen. Bob Giuda, R-Warren, one of the most outspoken opponents of legalisation, did not seek re-election this year. He was succeeded by Tim Lang, R-Sanbornton, who, as a state representative, helped work on HB 1598.

Giuda said legalisation would lead to more frequent marijuana use by young people, to their detriment. He also asserted that public revenues from marijuana sales have not met expectations in states that have legalised marijuana.

Another marijuana opponent no longer in the Senate is Chuck Morse, R-Salem, who lost a primary for U.S. Senate. Abbas has succeeded him in the N.H. Senate.

Republican Gov. Chris Sununu, who has voiced opposition to marijuana legalisation in the past, did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday on the latest proposal, which is supported by the ACLU of New Hampshire.

Frank Knaack, policy director for that organisation, said the present marijuana law is harmful.

“Sold to the public in the name of public safety, New Hampshire’s marijuana laws needlessly ensnare over a thousand people — disproportionately Black people — in its criminal justice system every year,” he said. “New Hampshire’s war on marijuana does not make us safer, wastes taxpayer dollars, is enforced with a staggering racial bias, and ruins lives — it’s time for it to end.”

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