House lawmakers voted overwhelmingly to advance a sweeping marijuana legalization bill Thursday, but not without some pro-cannabis members complaining the final version does nothing to satisfy those with a case of the legislative munchies.

“Folks, this amendment will satisfy the hunger many of us feel for legalization, but it is a bologna sandwich,” state Rep. Jonah Wheeler (D-Peterborough) said during his floor remarks. He opposed an amendment limiting cannabis sales to just 15 liquor agency-style statewide outlets, as well as other restrictions like keeping the private cultivation of marijuana plants illegal.

The amended version came via the House Commerce and Consumer Affairs Committee. Wheeler said the 15-location limit would lead to continued illicit sales of marijuana in the black market, a point that drew the ire of at least one committee member.

“I believe you’re a sponsor of the bill, so my question is how many hearings did you participate in and communicate with other people who were in on the bill?” state Rep. Anita Burroughs (D-Bartlett) asked Wheeler, a jab that earned some groans in the chamber and a rebuke from House Speaker Sherman Packard (R-Londonderry).

“That question was not appropriate,” Packard said after telling Wheeler he did not have to respond.

There was conflict over the bill before the House convened at 9 a.m. About a dozen activists opposed to legalization entered the building holding signs, including Celeste Clark, executive director of the Raymond Coalition for Youth. Clark was accompanied by several young members, including a 17-year-old who Clark says was targeted by a pro-marijuana activist.

“He got right in her face and yelled at her over her sign, causing her to cry,” Clark said.

Asked about the final 239-141 vote advancing the bill, Clark said her group actually expected the margin to be wider.

“We were kind of pleased because it seems like the margin is narrowing,” Clark said. “It’s hard to get a prevention message out there. We don’t have a lot of money.”

Meanwhile, the amendment restricting sales to 15 sanctioned locations was approved by an even wider margin at 263-116. State Rep. Erica Layon (R-Derry), one of the bill’s prime sponsors, said the amendment was a necessary compromise.

“Do we pass something that makes a lot of us happier here in a freer market situation, or do we pass something that meets the outlines laid out for legalization?” Layon said — a reference to the political reality that any bill that doesn’t have Gov. Chris Sununu’s buy-in would be dead on arrival.

“This bill addresses the requirements by the man with the pen in a way that allows the market to open up and increase, assuming we see that this is a good New Hampshire way to bring about legalization,” Layon said.

Until recently, Sununu had been a vocal critic of legalization. In 2018, he labeled the marijuana industry as “Big Tobacco 2.0” and cited the New Hampshire opioid addiction problem as a major reason against allowing the commercial sale of cannabis in the state.

Last May, however, Sununu issued a statement calling commercial legalization “inevitable” and publicly called for “legalizing marijuana the right way.”

“Every single person in a seat here can find a reason to vote against the amendment and to vote against the bill. But the question is, do we have a net benefit to the state by passing this? I truly believe we do,” Layon said Thursday.

State Rep. Lilli Walsh (R-Hampstead) cited several reasons for voting against the measure, including climate change, public health, and new taxes. Walsh cited statistics suggesting that a marijuana “grow house” emits “as much CO2 as 3.3 million cars on the road.”

She later claimed the legislation “prioritizes tax profits over public health and youth safety,” and also provoked some snickers from her colleagues when she said, “My friends, this is a new tax. And taxation is theft” — a mantra of many libertarian-leaning House members.

The amended version passed Thursday also bars the use of major advertising, such as billboards, and taxes gross profits at 10 percent. The bulk of the revenue would go toward education initiatives, while a smaller chunk will fund the hiring of drug recognition experts to keep users from irresponsibly getting behind the wheel.

Yet before it goes to the governor’s desk, the bill must first pass the Senate, which has thus far killed every previous House effort at legalization. In 2023, House members voted 272-109 to advance a legalization proposal, only to see the Senate vote it down 14-10.

The bill now heads to the House Finance Committee for consideration. It must still pass a final House vote before advancing to the Senate.

Layon told NHJournal hours after the vote that the bill “addresses the concerns laid out by the governor.”

“Opposition from free-market proponents shows that even this bill moves too far into state control for many representatives, and I caution the Senate to not take House support for any and all cannabis legalization models for granted,” Layon said. “I continue to believe this model is the best path for New Hampshire.

“I look forward to building a coalition in the Senate to finally end prohibition in the Granite State without creating a state-sponsored cartel.”