New Hampshire considers marijuana legalization as Maine starts sales

New Hampshire considers marijuana legalization as Maine starts sales

Every neighboring state has legalized marijuana for adult recreational use.

Some New Hampshire lawmakers are considering legalizing marijuana as the fiscal fallout from COVID-19 comes into view – a freedom residents of every neighboring state now enjoy.

As tax revenue has plummeted during the pandemic and longer term economic fallout, several Democratic representatives are looking to legalizing recreational marijuana for the benefits it would reap as a new revenue stream, the Concord Monitor reports.

“Going forward next year it looks like we’re going to have a huge hole in the state budget,” said state Rep. David Meuse, D-Portsmouth. “So far it doesn’t look like we’re going to be able to fill it with any money coming from the federal government.”

Maine residents had their first opportunity Oct. 9 to legally purchase recreational marijuana. Voters approved a 2016 referendum regarding legalization of marijuana for recreational use. After four years of hurdles and delays, Maine became the 10th state to allow retail sales this month.

House Bill 1663, a holdover from last year, is receiving new attention. While the bill was held back for study, the House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee voted to recommend the Legislature take the bill up for further consideration.

The bill would allow recreational marijuana use and cultivation for those 21 and over, as well as create a licensing and regulatory regime for marijuana businesses. Moreover, the bill also includes and tax system for the new industry. Growers selling marijuana to retailers would be taxed at 5% and consumers purchasing from retailers would be levied an 8% tax.

The state Department of Revenue Administration says New Hampshire could raise $36.4 million in the first year from legalizing and taxing marijuana at these rates.

Following legalization in Maine, Vermont and Massachusetts, New Hampshire should not be using scarce law enforcement resources to enforce an island of marijuana prohibition.

And as medical research studies have shown cannabis legalization can reduce opioid abuse, emergency room visits and overall prescription drug activity, it’s no surprise more than two-thirds of Granite Staters support legalization.

Lawmakers should listen to them.

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