It is time the New Hampshire legislature legalized the adult use of recreational cannabis, and this may be the last chance we get for years to do it.

The House passed a comprehensive bill to legalize adult use and create a well-regulated marketplace for its cultivation and sale. The Senate did so as well, and subsequently created several changes to our bill. Some changes are a great addition, others are not.

What is most worth noting here is that the Senate for the first time in the decades of cannabis legalization arguments voted to pass an approved legalization bill. That in itself is an encouraging fact. Moreover, the governor offered guidance as to what he would sign into law. We all should take note of these two major changes in policy position.

Those of us who purport to fight for our constituents sometimes allow for a personal opinions to interfere with that advocacy. To be clear, north of 70 percent of Granite State residents want cannabis legalization.

It’s simple. We in the House have a “binary choice.” By concurring with the Senate, this policy of legalization goes on to the governor’s desk. If we failed to concur, this will most certainly go to a  biased committee of conference where it will certainly die once again.

No matter what disagreements (and all of us have them) with specifics in this piece of legislation, I offer this: “Policy over Perfection.” Let’s concur and pass the “policy” component of cannabis legalization. With that policy placed into law, we can then address the imperfections we have with this specific piece of legislation.

We are, at minimum, two plus years out from any retail sale of cannabis. We have more than adequate time to address disagreements we have in this specific piece of legislation.

The reality is, any Granite Stater who wants to use cannabis, already is. They are either buying it at dispensaries/retail stores in any one of our neighboring states—it is legal for sale in Maine, Vermont, and Massachusetts—or they are buying it off the black market. Buying off the black market can be dangerous. First of all, you don’t always know what you’re getting when you buy it “off the street.” You don’ know the strength and if anything is added to it. Marijuana can be laced with many things, including the highly addictive and incredibly deadly fentanyl.

In January 2023, Gov. Chris Sununu announced, in conjunction with the Department of Safety, a “No Safe Experience” PSA campaign. In the press release announcement, the stated goal of the program is to “alert individuals that there is no safe experience when consuming any drugs that have not been prescribed by a medical provider” specifically referencing the presence of fentanyl in other illicit drugs. Then New Hampshire State Police Col. Nathan Noyes said, “The intentional and accidental mixing of fentanyl is also becoming more commonly discovered in cocaine, marijuana and even made to look like candy.” Why drug dealers are wittingly killing-off their own clientele with fentanyl laced marijuana or any other drug is beyond me, but they are doing it and its prevalence is increasing. If for no other reason than this, doesn’t it make sense to create a safe, licensed and regulated market for adult consumers?

But there are other reasons. Millions of them. Millions of potential dollars going to Maine, Massachusetts, and Vermont instead of to New Hampshire in the forms of taxes and or fees in the purchase and sale of cannabis products. And, again, if Granite Staters who want to consume cannabis are already doing it.

Some are concerned that on a federal level, marijuana is still illegal and listed  a “Schedule I” drug. However, the Biden administration’s FDA, DEA, HHS have indicated it will be rescheduled to “Schedule III,” any day now.

Twenty-four states have legalized recreational use of cannabis and 38 allow it for medical use. The feds haven’t exactly been raiding dispensaries around the country to enforce the federal statute and they aren’t going to. Let us also not forget, New Hampshire is already flouting federal law with our medical marijuana program, even though according to the DEA marijuana currently falls under, “drugs with no currently accepted medical use…”

The legislature and various organizations have worked hard for decades to craft a law to legalize, regulate, license and tax cannabis products in New Hampshire. Whatever program is passed, if one is, will take at least two plus years to implement, giving the next legislature plenty of time to fix any flaws. Every single regulated, licensed and taxed industry is under legislative scrutiny seemingly every year, from alcohol to tobacco, gaming and real estate—as a lawmaker, we see new bills submitted to address changing standards, industry changes and new markets. Cannabis is no different. We can fix the flaws and we will in the coming session(s).

If this bill does not pass, and either Republican candidate for governor is elected in November, he or she will veto legalization of adult use cannabis. Therefore, we need to pass this now, the House needs to “concur” now, and accept the flawed changes the Senate made to this proposed law, or it will be many years before we have this opportunity again.

As the saying goes, let’s not let perfect be the enemy of good. And I add, “policy over perfection.”

It is time New Hampshire stops being an island on this issue, and moves forward with a program for legal adult use recreational cannabis.