Sununu Sees Potential for Legalizing Cannabis This Session

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Marijuana plant and a joint.


CONCORD – Cannabis legalization could potentially occur this session Gov. Chris Sununu said Wednesday provided the Senate passes a measure that is close to what he has in mind.

That would be a system controlled by the state’s liquor commission. He said he thinks the Senate is onto something that he would support if it “gets through” and has no doubt that many businesses will want to “partake.”

On May 12, 2023, the day after the Senate killed a major bill to legalize recreational marijuana for adults last year after clearing the House, Sununu issued a surprise news release saying he supported legalization in “the right way” and outlined a path that could make it happen before he leaves office at the end of this year.

“This path:

– Allows the state to control distribution and access

– Keeps marijuana away from kids and schools

– Controls the marketing and messaging

– Prohibits ‘marijuana miles’ of multiple stores on one thoroughfare

– Empowers towns to keep them out if they choose

– Reduces access to poly-drugs

– Keeps it tax free ‘to undercut the cartels who continue to drive NH’s illicit drug market’”

“Should the legislature pass future legalization bills without these provisions in place, they will be vetoed. This is the best path forward for our state, and I stand ready and willing to work with the legislature so that we can deliver a legalization bill that is smart, sustainable, and retains the fabric and culture of our state,” Sununu wrote, last year after years of opposing any sort of pot legalization in the past.

New Hampshire is surrounded by neighboring states that have some form of legal weed.

“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,” Sununu said when laying out his strategy.

While the House has passed measures in the past to legalize marijuana, it has always faltered in the Senate where the Republican controlled body has balked.

Meeting with reporters in his office Wednesday, Sununu said he laid out “exactly what I wanted to see about a year ago. I really haven’t waivered from that too too much as some of the senators have come back with different ideas, not completely different ideas but you know how things would actually be written the stipulations I am looking for, how that would be written into the bill, some of the legal issues around this or that whatever it is. So, I am always happy to talk with them and work with them and my sense is they have been forming a bill, that, you know, could get through but it’s got to get through,” Sununu said.

Critics of that approach have claimed it would destroy the already legal medicinal treatment facilities set up around the state and would allow for corporate out-of-state entities to come in and run the show.

“Nothing really changes with those. I understand they want to corner the market so to say and have a monopoly on that,” but Sununu said the legislature is looking to expand its availability for individuals who have a medical card to “get what they need…we’re not shutting down dispensaries.”

He was asked if it would be too hard for a small- to mid-level company to meet the demand here under a franchise system and if the state needs a vertically integrated company that does the growing and sales.

Sununu said that is just another argument being made by medicinal marijuana to monopolize.

“I have no doubt there will be a lot of folks who will want to partake in the opportunity here,” Sununu said.

A vote is expected in the House Finance Committee, April 2 on House Bill 1893 relative to legalization. A link to information on that bill is here:

Paula Tracy is’s senior reporter who has 30 years of reporting experience.

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