Hold On, What’s Going On With NH Cannabis Legalization Now?

“Knowing that a majority of our residents support legalization, it is reasonable to assume change is inevitable.”

Last time we checked in with readers about progress on the New Hampshire adult-use front earlier this month, the state’s Senate Judiciary Committee had just voted against the legalization measure in play. And with the following full Senate vote falling along party lines, it seemed Democrats had once again lost out to prohibitionist Republicans across the aisle.

That was despite the state’s “Act relative to the legalization and regulation of cannabis” having co-sponsorship from House Republican and Democrat leaders and being “supported by a broad coalition of marijuana industry and civil rights and policy groups,” according to the Conway Daily Sun.

“Nearly three-quarters of the House voted for passage, and this was reflective of public opinion,” a disappointed New Hampshire state Rep. David Paige Paige told reporters at the time. “Bottom line: Ending prohibition will make a product that is already widespread in our community safer. Prohibition is a futile enterprise and a waste of resources when any adult in Conway can drive 10 minutes over the border to Maine to purchase the product.”

After the rejection of the aforementioned measure, Granite State outlets were reporting that “Governor [Chris] Sununu has been calling senators and telling them that now is not the time for legalizing or regulating cannabis because the bill is incomplete,” as Tim Egan of the New Hampshire Cannabis Association told the press. But Sununu had something else up his sleeve. Kind of. In a statement released on May 12, he wrote:

NH is the only state in New England where recreational use is not legal. Knowing that a majority of our residents support legalization, it is reasonable to assume change is inevitable. To ignore this reality would be shortsighted and harmful. That is why, with the right policy and framework in place, I stand ready to sign a legalization bill that puts the State of NH in the drivers seat, focusing on harm reduction — not profits. Similar to our Liquor sales, this path helps to keep substances away from kids by ensuring the State of New Hampshire retains control of marketing, sales, and distribution — eliminating any need for additional taxes. As such, the bill that was defeated in NH this session was not the right path for our state.

Sununu also introduced a “long-term, sustainable solution for our state,” and said he is “supportive of legalizing marijuana in the right way — with this legislature — rather than risk a poorly thought out framework that inevitably could pass under future governors or legislatures.” Adding, “Should the legislature pass future legalization bills without these provisions in place, they will be vetoed.”

Building on that platform, yesterday the New Hampshire state legislature’s House Commerce Committee made some magic happen by amending an unrelated bill to include wording that could end cannabis prohibition there. In short, the plan would put the state’s Liquor Commission in charge of sales and regulation, though not all adult-use sales would be at state-run stores.

House Democratic Leader Matt Wilhelm released a hopeful statement following the resurrection of recreational cannabis (for now, at least) in Concord: “Every day that New Hampshire remains an island of prohibition, more voluntary tax revenue from our residents flows to surrounding states to fund programs and services benefiting their residents.”