A vote by the New Hampshire Senate Judiciary Committee has put the brakes on efforts to legalize marijuana in the state.
In a unanimous 4-0 vote, the committee recommended sending the bill for interim study, which could essentially table it.
“I think a lot more information is needed from a public health standpoint,” James Potter, executive vice president of the New Hampshire Medical Society, told The Center Square. “For New Hampshire, we are looking for more clinical evidence on the impact of cannabis, and closely watching what some of the other states in New England are doing. We want to see how it is impacting them and how New Hampshire can learn from the approaches they’ve taken and how we might, in turn, look at the issue.”
In neighboring Maine and Massachusetts, voters approved marijuana legalization measures in 2016. Vermont’s legislature put through marijuana legalization last year.
While Gov. Chris Sununu signed a law to decriminalize up to three-quarters of an ounce of marijuana in 2017, he stands ready to veto additional efforts to legalize it, according to a report posted on New Hampshire Public Radio.
Potter noted that Tuesday’s federal appeals court ruling, which allows the Food and Drug Administration to regulate e-cigarettes like conventional cigarettes, should help inform what the Granite State does.
Opponents of marijuana legalization have argued it could lead to more young people vaping THC, the high-inducing ingredient in marijuana.
“What we heard loud and clear from parent groups is that they believe a commercialization approach would possibly cause THC vaping to become an overwhelming problem in the schools,” Potter said, adding that legalization also presents concerns given the state’s opioid issues.
“The tandem issues of vaping and the opioid epidemic reframed the decision not to move ahead with the market approach advocates were promoting,” Potter said. “That’s what we heard back on the Senate committee who voted unanimously to do an interim study.”
“We took a policy position early in this debate, not for or against, but needing to see that a number of mechanisms were put in place before legalization of recreational use,” Potter said. “We took a more regulatory approach, and made a commitment to making sure safeguards are in place.”