State-Controlled Legal Marijuana Likely Coming to New Hampshire

After years of equivocation, negotiation, and numerous false starts, it looks like New Hampshire may soon be joining the growing number of states passing significant legislation to accommodate the legal medicinal or recreational use of marijuana (or cannabis) by adults. New Hampshire House Bill 1633 is headed for a full House and Senate vote on June 13 after a majority of a Committee of Conference on the bill struck a compromise deal this week.

Governor Christopher T. Sununu said last May that he’d support legalization if the bill met specific criteria, which the latest version of HB 1633 appears to meet. Other than determining the distribution and regulatory model that New Hampshire will follow, HB 1633 will legalize the use and purchase of cannabis for anyone age 21 and older.

State Control

While a majority of the NH House of Representatives and cannabis legalization advocacy groups favored a licensure model, the Senate and Governor favored a state franchising model similar to New Hampshire’s state-run liquor stores. The final deal reached this week follows a franchising model and would enable the state to exercise maximum control over the cannabis distribution industry in the state, including the determination of marketing, store layout, and overall appearance of all cannabis outlets.

The legislation would create 15 franchise retail stores by 2026. A state-run retail system would be a first in the United States, and that lack of precedent has some advocates concerned about a range of possible legal challenges.

Employers Must Prepare

As New Hampshire employers anticipate cannabis legalization, updating personnel policies will be necessary. Many workplaces have already been grappling with these issues since all the states surrounding New Hampshire have legalized some amount of adult marijuana use. With legalization coming down the pipe in New Hampshire, employers are encouraged to review and update their personnel policies, including but not limited to any drug testing policies and safety policies, and adjust policies accordingly.

If you have any questions or concerns about updating your policies — and aligning those policies with lawful marijuana use and current state regulations — don’t hesitate to contact Orr & Reno for assistance.

Lindsay Nadeau

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