New Hampshire's top lawmakers have responded with varying opinions to the Governor's endorsement of legalizing marijuana sales through state-run stores. However, some doubt that the legislation can be passed this year.
New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu, a Republican, announced on Friday that he now supports cannabis reform. However, he insists that the state should exclusively manage the sale of cannabis rather than allowing private businesses to do so. Sununu’s statement came shortly after the Senate blocked a bill that would have legalized commercial marijuana production, which the House had earlier passed.
New Hampshire's potential state-controlled legalization of marijuana may not happen as quickly as expected. Although Governor Sununu expressed a willingness to sign the legislation, Senate President Jeb Bradley has urged caution in the legislative process.
He stated, "I think it’s much better to come back with a piece of legislation next year," and he went on to say that they need, "to vet it properly with public hearings, work the process.
House Majority Leader Jason Osborne (R) is showing flexibility in his approach to marijuana legalization. Despite the Senate's rejection of his move to legalize through private means, Osborne is now willing to advance legislation that aligns with the governor's proposal.
On Friday, he suggested that a House bill aimed at ending cannabis criminalization could potentially be amended to include state-run regulatory provisions. This could be a way to push forward cannabis reform through a different avenue if the Senate agrees to.
According to Osborne, if the Senate were to send it back for a concurrence, passing a bill for state-run stores could happen this year. However, delaying until 2024 may be too late.
In response to Rep. Jared Sullivan's tweet, questioning the haste of proposing a state monopoly on cannabis, Osbourne, the majority leader, explained that the long history of failed bills led to the current urgency. Despite appearances, this proposal has been a long time coming.
It is clear that the New Hampshire Cannabis Reform Bill has been in the works for some time, and Governor Sununu's endorsement of a state-run system may be just what it needs to pass. The Senate President has urged caution in this process, but Majority Leader Jason Osborne appears willing to amend existing legislation as an alternative route if necessary.
Whether or not cannabis reform passes this year remains to be seen, but one thing is certain: there will continue to be a strong debate on both sides of the issue until then. As more states legalize marijuana use through varying systems, citizens and lawmakers alike are sure to keep a close eye on developments here in New Hampshire.