New Hampshire Should Legalize Marijuana, But A State-Run Monopoly Is A Bad Idea (Op-Ed) – Marijuana Moment

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“There is no point in advancing such a flawed bill when it’s clear that much more public discussion is needed.”
By Matt Simon, Prime Alternative Treatment Centers of New Hampshire
New Hampshire residents overwhelmingly support legalizing cannabis, but some elected officials don’t share the public’s enthusiasm. As a result, the “Live Free or Die” state remains an island of prohibition surrounded by jurisdictions where cannabis is legal for adults.
Legislators currently have a choice between several competing legalization proposals. For example, House Bill 629 is a simple bill that would legalize possession and limited home cultivation, and it has already passed the House by a veto-proof margin. But some lawmakers have other ideas.
HB 1598, sponsored by Rep. Daryl Abbas, a Salem Republican, takes a very different approach. Instead of allowing home cultivation, the bill would establish a state monopoly for cannabis sales while maintaining felony penalties against home cultivation. The liquor commission would be the only entity authorized to operate cannabis retail stores, and all private sales would continue to be criminalized.
If you’re thinking “that doesn’t sound like a very ‘Live Free or Die’ approach to legalization,” you certainly aren’t alone.
Abbas spoke on the House floor in opposition to other legalization bills, but the House passed HB 629 despite his objections. This simple bill will proceed to the Senate. However, Abbas did succeed in halting the progress of HB 237, a comprehensive bill that would have legalized, regulated, and taxed retail sales.
As a result, HB 1598 is now the only cannabis regulation bill being actively considered. But should lawmakers who support legalization be willing to accept any such bill out of desperation, or should they insist on a more thoughtful and deliberative policymaking process?
In a recent conversation at the Cato Institute, Gov. Chris Sununu (R) said New Hampshire should “learn from other states” when determining how to proceed on this issue. As a longtime advocate, I wholeheartedly agree: Some states have performed much better than others, and it’s important that we learn from their experiences.
Fortunately, we aren’t starting from scratch. Our legislators have been studying other states’ experiences for many years. In fact, their desire to “learn from other states” was the impetus behind a bipartisan study commission that met 26 times before recommending a very different system than the one proposed in HB 1598.
The Republican-chaired commission spoke with regulators and legislative leaders in eight states, and the recommendations it issued in 2018 were hailed as a “blueprint for potential legislation.” After thorough consideration, the commission recommended against a state monopoly and in favor of allowing private retailers.
It also recommended that limited home cultivation should be included in legalization, as it is in all neighboring states.
Another important consideration is the potential impact of legalization on New Hampshire’s therapeutic cannabis program. The commission recognized this and recommended that existing dispensaries should be allowed to participate in an adult-use retail market if retail sales become legal.
In many other states, medical cannabis businesses have helped to pioneer adult-use markets, providing valuable education and working to promote a culture of responsible cannabis use. Sadly, HB 1598 presents a serious threat to the therapeutic cannabis program. If cheap cannabis is made available in the equivalent of state liquor stores, fewer patients will be interested in registering for the program.
I currently work for Prime Alternative Treatment Centers, a nonprofit that operates two of New Hampshire’s seven dispensaries. Every day we see patients who are looking to cannabis for help treating symptoms such as pain and insomnia. Many of these patients have never used cannabis before or haven’t tried it in decades, so the education and support we provide is critical.
Many non-registered patients want to use cannabis for the same reasons as registered patients. Will they receive valuable education and support if they buy cannabis from the liquor commission? Or is the goal of HB 1598 simply to maximize revenue for the state without regard to other important considerations?
Fortunately for those of us who cannot support HB 1598, there are other worthy legalization efforts, including HB 629 and two constitutional amendment proposals that, if approved by legislators, would give voters the opportunity to decide the question in November.
Again, it’s easy to stop arresting and fining people for possession. This does not result in negative consequences, so it ought to be a top priority for legislators. However, we only get one opportunity to transition from an unregulated market to a regulated market, and it’s important that we work together and get this right.
I believe most Granite Staters would agree that these new economic opportunities should be broadly distributed rather than being concentrated in the hands of the state or a few large corporations, so I’m hoping the House will decide to shelve HB 1598 and focus on other vehicles. There is no point in advancing such a flawed bill when it’s clear that much more public discussion is needed.
Matt Simon is director of public and government relations for Prime Alternative Treatment Centers of NH.
This story was first published by New Hampshire Bulletin.
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Does federal law protect employers who choose not to cover medical marijuana costs for workers injured on the job, even in states the seek to require it? State courts have reached different conclusions on the question, and now the U.S. Supreme Court is asking the top Justice Department lawyer to weigh in.
Justices were scheduled to discuss a pair of cases at private conference on Friday that concerned Minnesota employees who sought workers compensation for medical cannabis expenses after being hurt while working on the job.
Now the Supreme Court is asking the solicitor general to submit a brief—a notable development in the cases that appear to hinge on an interpretation of the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution.
For its part, the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled late last year that both workers comp claims were invalid because of marijuana’s Schedule I status under the federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA).
In one case, Susan Musta filed a petition with the U.S. Supreme Court in November after her state’s highest court determined that the CSA did, indeed, mean her employer did not need to provide reimbursement for medical cannabis after she was injured at her place of work, a dental center.
Empire State NORML and two other groups—the New York City Cannabis Industry Association and the Hudson Valley Cannabis Industry Association—submitted amici curiae briefs urging the court to hear the case in December.
Similarly, the state Supreme Court made the same judgement in another case where a man named Daniel Bierbach was injured at his job working for an all-terrain vehicle company and sought compensation for medical marijuana.
Bierbach submitted his petition for a writ of certiorari months after Musta, in January. He argued that because employers aren’t required to possess, manufacture or distribute cannabis in contravention of federal law, simply providing workers compensation for marijuana is not preempted by the CSA.
Filings in both cases were distributed on February 2 for a Supreme Court conference that was scheduled on February 18. Now the justices are seeking input on the issue from the Biden administration
“The Solicitor General is invited to file a brief in this case expressing the views of the United States,” the latest entry on the both cases’ dockets reads.
Minnesota isn’t the only state where this issue has been raised and taken to court. And state courts have taken different approaches in their respective rulings.
When a case arose in the Maine Supreme Court, the body took a similar approach to Minnesota’s. Meanwhile, the high courts of both New Hampshire and New Jersey have ruled that reimbursements to medical marijuana patients can go forward regardless of federal prohibition.
With the spread of the state-level legalization movement—and the growing number of legal cases where these federal-state policy conflicts are emerging such as with these workers compensation challenges—more stakeholders are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to do something to settle the debate.
Even one of the most conservative U.S. Supreme Court justices, Clarence Thomas, denounced the federal government’s inconsistent approach to marijuana policy last year, and he suggested that outright national prohibition may actually be unconstitutional.
At the time, the court declined to take up a case related to an Internal Revenue Service investigation into tax deductions claimed by a Colorado marijuana dispensary. But Thomas issued a statement that more broadly addressed the federal-state marijuana disconnect.
He specifically discussed a 2005 ruling in Gonzales v. Raich, wherein the court narrowly determined that the federal government could enforce prohibition against cannabis cultivation that took place wholly within California based on its authority to regulate interstate commerce.
In 2020, justices declined to hear a case challenging the constitutionality of federal marijuana prohibition.
Three In Four Florida Voters Support Legalizing Marijuana, New Poll Finds

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About three-fourths of Florida voters support legalizing marijuana possession for adult use, including strong bipartisan majorities, according to a new poll.
The survey released by the University of North Florida on Tuesday didn’t ask about where voters stood on creating a regulated system of cannabis sales, but 76 percent said they either strongly or somewhat support allowing adults to “legally possess small amounts of marijuana for recreational use.”
Just 20 percent said they oppose the policy change.
This marks a 12 percentage point increase in support since the last time the university polled on the issue in November 2019.
“Previous polls we conducted have shown support in the mid-60s for marijuana legalization but Floridians are now highly supportive of recreational marijuana,” Michael Binder, a political science professor who led the survey, said in a press release.
The crosstabs of the survey show majority support for legalizing cannabis possession across every demographic, including party, age, sex, race and education.
Levels of support did follow common themes, however. For example, Democrats were more favorable of possession legalization (76 percent) compared to Republicans (64 percent). Among people with no party affiliation, 90 percent back ending cannabis prohibition.
And younger people were generally for supportive of the proposal than older generations, though even a majority of those in the 65+ group still support the policy (63 percent).
The poll involved interviews with 685 registered Florida voters from February 7-20, with a +/-3.74 percentage point margin of error.
A campaign that initially planned to put legalization on Florida’s 2022 ballot announced last month that it was pivoting to 2024 as a result of challenges that activists faced, including the state Supreme Court rejecting the language of an earlier version, forcing them to go back and rewrite the petitions.
While the group filed a revised version in September and hustled to collect the required signatures, it wasn’t enough.
A separate campaign, Make It Legal Florida, also had their legalization proposal rejected by court last year. That group, which had already collected 556,049 valid signatures at the time of the court’s action, had intended to get legalization on the ballot in 2020 but shifted focus to 2022 due to restrictive signature gathering requirements. It has not publicly announced its intentions for 2024.

Marijuana Moment is already tracking more than 1,000 cannabis, psychedelics and drug policy bills in state legislatures and Congress this year. Patreon supporters pledging at least $25/month get access to our interactive maps, charts and hearing calendar so they don’t miss any developments.

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A separate survey released last year found that 59 percent of Floridians back legalizing and regulating adult-use marijuana—a slim margin to get any legalization ballot measure enacted if they qualify.
Meanwhile, in the Florida legislature, a lawmaker recently introduced a bill to decriminalize all currently illicit drugs, provide avenues for relief for those with existing drug-related convictions and promote harm reduction services.
In September, the top Democrat in the Florida Senate filed a bill that would require the state to research the medical benefits of psychedelics such as psilocybin and MDMA.
In the background, two Democrats competing in a primary race to become the next governor of Florida are warring over who supports marijuana legalization more.
Utah Senate Committee Approves Psychedelics Study Task Force Bill That Already Passed House

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A Utah Senate committee on Tuesday approved a House-passed bill to create a task force to study and make recommendations on the therapeutic potential of psychedelic drugs and possible regulations for their lawful use.
The Senate Health and Human Services Standing Committee cleared the legislation in a voice vote, with just one member opposing it. This comes about two weeks after the full House passed the measure from Rep. Brady Brammer (R) in a 68-1 vote.
“At the end of the day, we need effective tools to treat mental illness,” Brammer said at Tuesday’s committee hearing. “If psychedelics can be helpful and safely administered, we need them in our toolbox.”
The psychedelics bill would create a Mental Illness Psychotherapy Drug Task Force, which would be required to “study and make recommendations on drugs that may assist in treating mental illness.” The psychotherapy drugs that the panel would consider are defined as controlled substances that are “not currently available for legal use” and “may be able to treat, manage, or alleviate symptoms from mental illness.”
Brammer has previously recognized that as a conservative Mormon, he might not be the most likely candidate to carry a psychedelics bill, but he’s closely studied the existing research and determined that there are “indications of treatment benefits for treatment resistant depression, PTSD, addiction and existential distress” through the use of certain entheogenic substances.
He said on Tuesday that the task force would “help us stay ahead of things so that we know what we’re talking about as a legislature, because this is not going to be an issue that goes away.”
“We’re looking for evidence-based recommendations. If the evidence just isn’t there, if it’s too dangerous, if it’s not something that can be recommended and done so responsibly, that’s something that we’re going to have to discern,” he said. “But if we run away from the issue, I can tell you that we’re going to regret it later on.”

Marijuana Moment is already tracking more than 1,000 cannabis, psychedelics and drug policy bills in state legislatures and Congress this year. Patreon supporters pledging at least $25/month get access to our interactive maps, charts and hearing calendar so they don’t miss any developments.

Learn more about our marijuana bill tracker and become a supporter on Patreon to get access.

The bill says the panel’s recommendations should touch on the types of symptoms that a given drug may treat, dosage and administration, training and licensing, how to obtain the substance, safety requirements, data tracking and “proposed regulations the Legislature should consider if the psychotherapy drug is made legal for treating mental illness.”
This is one of the latest example of psychedelics reform reaching state legislatures, including those that are traditionally conservative, as the local decriminalization movement continues to spread and more people are made aware of research into the therapeutic potential of these substances.
For example, an Oregon Senate committee recently advanced a bill to ensure that equity is built into the state’s historic therapeutic psilocybin program that’s actively being implemented following voter approval in 2020.
Oklahoma lawmakers approved a bill in committee last week to decriminalize low-level possession of psilocybin and promote research into the therapeutic potential of the psychedelic.
A Hawaii Senate committee recently approved a bill to set up a state working group to study the therapeutic benefits of psilocybin mushrooms and develop a “long-term” plan to ensure that the psychedelic is accessible for medical use for adults 21 and older.
A group of Maryland senators recently filed a bill that would create a state fund that could be used to provide free access to psychedelics like psilocybin, MDMA and ketamine for military veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), while also supporting research into their therapeutic potential.
A Republican Missouri lawmaker introduced a bill last month to give residents with serious illnesses legal access to a range of psychedelic drugs like psilocybin, ibogaine and LSD  through an expanded version of the state’s existing right-to-try law.
A bill to decriminalize a wide array of psychedelics in Virginia was taken up by a House of Delegates panel last month, only to be pushed off until 2023. A separate Senate proposal to decriminalize psilocybin alone was later defeated in a key committee.
California Sen. Scott Wiener (D) told Marijuana Moment in a recent interview that his bill to legalize psychedelics possession stands a 50/50 chance of reaching the governor’s desk this year. It already cleared the full Senate and two Assembly committees during the first half of the two-year session.
Washington State lawmakers also introduced legislation last month that would legalize what the bill calls “supported psilocybin experiences” by adults 21 and older.
New Hampshire lawmakers filed measures to decriminalize psilocybin and all drugs.
Last year, the governor of Connecticut signed legislation that includes language requiring the state to carry out a study into the therapeutic potential of psilocybin mushrooms.
Similar legislation was also enacted by the Texas legislature, requiring the state to study the medical risks and benefits of psilocybin, MDMA and ketamine for military veterans in partnership with Baylor College of Medicine and a military-focused medical center.
Activists in Colorado recently filed revised versions of 2022 ballot initiatives to similarly legalize psilocybin and establish “healing centers” in the state. A competing campaign filed a different psychedelics legalization last month.
Michigan activists filed a statewide ballot initiative this month that would legalize possessing, cultivating and sharing psychedelics and set up a system for their therapeutic and spiritual use.
A pair of Michigan senators also introduced a bill in September to legalize the possession, cultivation and delivery of an array of plant- and fungi-derived psychedelics like psilocybin and mescaline.
At the congressional level, bipartisan lawmakers sent a letter to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) last month, urging that the agency allow terminally ill patients to use psilocybin as an investigational treatment without the fear of federal prosecution.
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