New Hampshire's Path To Cannabis Legalization Hits A Roadblock

Zinger Key Points
  • New Hampshire House rejects cannabis bill with a 178-173 vote, stalling legalization plans.
  • Disputes intensify over control models between the House, Senate and GOP Governor Sununu.

In a highly contested decision, the New Hampshire House of Representatives rejected a bill that sought to legalize recreational cannabis. The rejection occurred with a close vote of 178-173, derailing hopes for legalization anytime soon.

House Bill 1633, which proposed the legalization for adults over the age of 21 by 2026 and the establishment of up to 15 state-overseen retail locations, failed to bridge the deep divide between the House and Senate on the approach to cannabis sales.

Despite previous attempts at compromise, tensions flared over the retail model promoted by Governor Chris Sununu (R) and the Senate, which contrasted sharply with the more open model preferred by some House members. This model would have granted the state's Liquor Commission significant control over the cannabis stores’ operations, something that several legislators found too restrictive.

‘Nobody Likes This Bill’

Rep. Jared Sullivan (D) said that “The perplexing thing about the immortality of this bill is that literally nobody in this body likes this bill.”

Gov. Sununu has been a vocal proponent of tight state control to ensure community safety, particularly concerning youth exposure to cannabis. “You have billboards all over Massachusetts that tout marijuana, and how it's easy access,” Sununu remarked, highlighting the need for stringent regulations.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of New Hampshire lamented the missed opportunity for legalization. “Pushing legalization off yet another year makes clear that lawmakers are willing to ignore the will of their own constituents and are okay with continuing to needlessly ensnare over a thousand people – disproportionately Black people – in New Hampshire's criminal justice system every year,” said ACLU executive director Devon Chaffee to the New Hampshire Bulletin.

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Sinuous Path To Nowhere

Over the past two years, New Hampshire has witnessed significant legislative activity around cannabis legalization, although none have successfully passed into law.

In February 2024, a bipartisan cannabis legalization bill was passed by the New Hampshire House but faced significant challenges in the Senate. This bill, supported by both majority and minority leaders, allowed for the purchase and possession of cannabis but was not aligned with Sununu’s stricter regulatory vision​, so he did not sign it and ask for amendments. That’s how Bill 1633 started its sinuous path.

After legislative efforts to meet these requirements, a new version of the bill was elaborated and presented in April 2024. The House passed this GOP-led cannabis legalization bill, which allowed adults to buy marijuana from state-licensed stores. However, this version also did not meet all of Sununu’s requirements, particularly regarding the control and regulation framework he deemed necessary​. Hence, Sununu did not sign the bill.

Finally, in May 2024, the Senate once again blocked the bill that had been adjusted to meet some of the Governor’s criteria, and now the House finally killed it.

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Posted In: CannabisGovernmentNewsRegulationsMarketsCannabisGovernor Chris SununuHouse Bill 1633legal cannabisNew Hampshirenewsregulatory
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