Did New Hampshire vote to legalize cannabis without regulations or restrictions? The New Hampshire House of Representatives has approved two bills to legalize cannabis.
About a month ago, the House passed your typical legalization bill, including taxes and regulations. While that’s tied up in the Senate, the House has introduced a “simple” legalization bill.
House Bill 639 is a “simple” legalization bill that would remove cannabis from the state’s list of controlled substances. It also removes cannabis-related offences from the criminal code, including home growing. It also effectively decriminalizes cannabis for anyone under 21.
Forget the other bill – this is the only thing New Hampshire needs to do. Because as we’ll see, it is impossible to legalize cannabis without regulations.
New Hampshire Votes to Legalize Without Regulations
New Hampshire is the only New England state that has yet to legalize. All other surrounding states, including Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and Vermont, have passed laws legalizing recreational cannabis.
While the state’s politicians voted to legalize without regulations, the government decriminalized cannabis in 2017.
Officially, voting to legalize without regulations is to show solidarity while the comprehensive bill makes its way through the state bureaucracy.
According to the House majority report,
These members felt that as New Hampshire is the lone state in New England that still criminalizes cannabis, there is a high likelihood that New Hampshire citizens who want to obtain and use cannabis products, probably already are. They felt that if that is the case, by keeping it criminal we are accomplishing nothing other than exposing more citizens to potential criminal justice system involvement. These members also expressed that by legalizing it, there would be a better chance that the products being used would be safer than that which is available on the black market. That being said, these members believe other legislation that is before other committees is the best vehicle to accomplish this. The other members of the majority oppose legalization for public health and safety reasons. They felt that this bill, legalizing cannabis for persons 21 years or older, would be detrimental to the health and safety of the public.
There’s a lot to unpack there, so let’s examine what legalization without regulation entails.
Legalizing Cannabis without Regulations
Members of New Hampshire’s House of Representatives expressed concern that cannabis products on the black market aren’t safe. Ergo, remove cannabis from the criminal code.
Other members believed the “other legislation” before the committees should be the way to go. That legalizing cannabis without regulations would be detrimental to public health and safety.
That’s the argument Canada made. Justin Trudeau’s government came to power in 2015. But actual legal sales didn’t begin until 2018.
In the three years it took to implement the regime, the Trudeau government rejected calls for decriminalization or immediate reform. He said legalization without regulations hurts children and empowers organized crime.
Of course, that was a lie then, as it is now.
For many former prohibitionists, cannabis legalization is about money and power. That’s why Canada legalized. And that’s why New Hampshire’s politicians prefer House Bill 643, which establishes a state monopoly on cannabis sales.
But suppose the “simple” legalization bill passes the New Hampshire Senate while the more “comprehensive” tax-and-regulate bill is stuck in a committee hell. What then?
Of course, legalizing cannabis without regulations is impossible. Regulation happens naturally. Entrepreneurs regulate each other by competing for consumers. Consumers regulate entrepreneurs by patronizing different competitors.
The only way to profit – absent government privileges – is by exchanging goods and services with people. So you better be providing quality stuff.
But not everyone is honest. And sometimes mistakes are made. That’s why we have laws. Disputes inevitably arise. Violence is unpredictable, costly, and just bad for business.
People figured this out centuries ago. English common law originates from actual cases and settlements that arose and evolved from actual disputes.
In the western legal tradition, laws were procedural. Politicians didn’t preemptively create new rules and then empower expensive bureaucracies to enforce them.
Only a new cannabis bureaucracy can provide public health and safety? Historical evidence disagrees.
English Common Law Regulates Cannabis
Consider how cannabis companies would ensure their products are safe and accurately labelled to avoid product liability claims. We don’t need legislation for this. We have tort law.
Criminal law protects against theft and property damage. Ask any high-profile celebrity advocating for “common sense gun control” whether they rely on private security or government police.
Consider how contract law provides a framework for the cannabis industry to establish agreements with other businesses, vendors, employees, and customers.
Contracts can specify the delivery of goods, payment terms, warranties, and other essential details that reduce the risk of misunderstandings and disputes. Contract law provides a mechanism for enforcing agreements if one party fails to fulfill their obligations.
Property law provides a legal framework for the ownership and use of land, buildings, and other assets that cannabis companies require to operate.
Property law defines the rights and responsibilities of property owners, including the right to exclude others from the property, the right to use the property for specific purposes, and the right to sell or transfer ownership.
For the cannabis industry, property law is fundamental as it allows entrepreneurs to lease or purchase land and buildings for growing, processing, and selling cannabis products.
Or consider how commercial law governs the transactions between businesses, including the sale of goods, financing, and marketing. It also addresses financing issues like loans, investments, and equity.
Legalization Without Regulation
Legalize cannabis without regulations. We already have the framework in place. The laws are already on the books.
Tort and criminal law provide security, while contract, property, and commercial law facilitate cooperation and exchange. Politics doesn’t need to enter the picture.
As Lao Tzu once said, “The more laws and order are made prominent, the more thieves and robbers there will be.”
And that’s certainly true in the cannabis industry, where the people who once threw you in a cage for possessing it are now profiting from the legal regime they’re writing the rules to.