Governor Weighs In On Cannabis, Bail Reform, LGBTQ+ and Voting Changes

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Paula Tracy photo

Gov. Chris Sununu is pictured talking with reporters in his office Wednesday.


CONCORD – Gov. Chris Sununu said if it makes it to his desk, the current adult use cannabis legislation in play could be a national model of safety and wise implementation, if passed. 

But he refused to say point blank he would sign it as the committee of conference agreed to last week but will be watching the vote Thursday in the legislature which is expected to be close.

“I’ll take a strong look at it, for sure,” Sununu said if House Bill 1633 passes.  

Sununu indicated he would likely sign bail reform provisions championed by Manchester Mayor Jay Ruais. He said he has concerns about implementation challenges of a voting change being proposed in legislative language, which would go into effect in September. He said the state’s voting laws now are already sound.

And Sununu addressed a controversial bill on segregation by biological sex opposed by the LGBTQ+ community.


In a round table with press in his office Wednesday the state’s Republican chief executive, who is not seeking re-election, said he would have the popcorn ready for the floor fight on House Bill 1633 on cannabis Thursday which could lead to the state becoming the 25th state to legalize adult use cannabis.

While not a fan, he said he believes legalized adult cannabis is inevitable and wants to shepherd a bill that has proper guardrails to protect children and communities.

He noted his key “asks” – a franchise model of 15 stores tightly controlled by the state which would protect kids and communities from ‘marijuana miles’ and other mistakes of neighboring states – are included in the measure hammered out between House and Senate conferees last week.

Conferees said this week that they do not know whether the measure will pass on Thursday when it faces the House with it appearing equally divided between those who love and hate the bill, regardless of their political stripes.

If they wait another year, it might face a different product or none at all with both major Republican candidates for governor opposing legalization of marijuana while both major Democratic candidates support it.

Sununu said if it passes the way it would work would be much different than in other states.

“The systems in these other states are massively flawed in a whole variety of ways and that is exactly what we tried to address being very clear….drive through South Berwick, Maine through marijuana miles and there is a pot shop on literally every corner and people don’t like it. It ruins the character of the town, the feel of the town, they are maintained poorly. You have billboards all over Massachusetts…you have locations in other states that are directly adjacent and nearby schools. I think Vermont does home grow now, which is a completely unregulated market and actually encourages a black market. There are states overtaxing it and making it way too expensive so that again, you are encouraging an underground black market that this was supposed to get rid of, but actually encourages and fosters it,” Sununu said.

He said he is not passionate about passing legal weed but he is passionate about making sure New Hampshire does not go down the “bad paths” of all these other states.

“It has to be set up with pretty rigid, pretty firm guidelines. I’ve been very clear about those guidelines and if this bill meets them, and I think it meets most of those, to be sure, I will take a look at the final piece and kind of have our team, you know…engage with all the other pieces,” to ensure it can be achieved and implemented.

Asked if he thought it would be part of his legacy, he said he didn’t care about his “legacy” but “you know what legacy is? Making sure we don’t end up screwed up like our surrounding states. That would probably be a pretty good legacy. And the rest of our surrounding states go, ‘hey, if this was inevitable, I wish that we did it like those guys did it.'”


The governor said Pam Smart has submitted paperwork to the Attorney General’s Office as she has multiple times and it will be up to the Executive Council to decide whether they want to offer her a hearing, though she has changed her position from past requests for commutation, claiming she is taking responsibility for her husband, Gregg Smart’s death in 1990.

He said he watched her video “and I think it is hard to hear that from anyone who has – it has literally been decades. We are not talking about a couple years or a couple months or having a little time to think it over. Again, she’ll submit the paperwork…the most important thing I want folks to know is that she has to go through the process like everybody else. There is no special treatment here.”

The council can only hear such petitions every two years.


The governor said he would wait to see if House Bill 1370 which will be voted on Thursday passes, and House Bill 1569 which has already passed which would change the way the state handles voters who come to the polls without identification. Currently they sign an affidavit, vote and get the paperwork within a week to the polls for their vote to count but HB 1370 would set up a process that opponents say could disenfranchise voters and may be unconstitutional.

The Secretary of State said it is reasonable to protect the public’s perception and doable with training though the town and city clerks oppose it and said it would be hard to learn by September. It involves setting up a hotline with state agencies to verify residency.

“We’ll take a final look. Any time you are looking, I’ve always said I am not looking to make any significant changes in voting laws here. A big issue that I always have is can what we are doing isn’t just a good policy but can it be implemented. Right? So you never want to implement something too fast or too drastic in a short period of time that could potentially cause any sort of disruption into the system…and then most importantly, whether they are legal,” Sununu said.

Asked about the September vote coming up, he said. “I think everyone has concerns about whether that could be done. I have spoken to the Secretary of State on that. I think some other agencies that would have to be brought in and made involved in that for a call center,” referring to HB 1370.

“Our citizens have a lot of faith and belief that our system is, your vote, your vote is counted,” he said, and confidence is key, he said.

“Most voting bills will end up in court,” he said.


Sununu said he would take a close look at a bill that would separate bathrooms and inmates by biological sex contained in House Bill 396 which is headed to his desk after passage and is among a suite of bills opposed by the LGBTQ+ community.

He said the state has to be sure that they don’t run afoul of discrimination. He said there does not seem to be a problem right now and the issues are handled on a case-by-case basis.


One thing Sununu sounded strongly in support of, if it makes his desk, is a bail reform bill which would create a system of magistrates to deal with repeat violent offenders.

He gave credit to the new Republican mayor of Manchester and police chief for taking a proactive role in passage of the changes he said are needed to bail reform which passed several years ago but was found to have flaws.

He said this is the most comprehensive change contemplated.

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