CONCORD — The number of state senators in favor of legalizing marijuana for recreational use may have grown enough to overturn the text since the Senate last considered such a measure.
On May 12, the New Hampshire Senate killed Senate Bill 299, 15-9.
The Senate has frequently rejected cannabis bills that have been approved in the House, so a change in political sentiment among New Hampshire’s 20 senators could indicate whether there’s a chance the state will join the 21 others allowing recreational use.
Four of the senators who voted against SB 299 are succeeded by senators who support legalization.
Sen. Tim Lang, R-Sanbornton, who worked on a recreational-use bill last year as a state representative, now holds the seat of retiring Sen. Bob Jeuda, R-Warren, who has been one of the legislature’s most vocal opponents. .
Republican Sen. Darrell Abbas of Salem, the lead sponsor of the legalization bill while serving as a representative last session, now takes the Senate seat for Chuck Morse, R-Salem, the Senate chair last year who opposed the measure.
Newly elected Sen. Keith Murphy, R-Manchester, is a co-sponsor of this year’s legalization bill, House Bill 639. He succeeds Sen. Kevin Kavanaugh, D-Manchester, who was among the 15 senators who voted against SB 299. .
And in that group of 15 was Gary Daniels, R-Milford, who was defeated last year in the general election by Shannon Chandley, D-Amherst, who said in a Citizens poll last year that she supports legalizing cannabis for adults.
Meanwhile, new senators such as Donovan Fenton, De Keen, Debra Altchiler, and Debra Stratham, who had voted for legalization bills as representatives, succeeded senators who had also supported such measures.
“There are new faces in the Senate — myself, Abbas, Altchuler, Lang, Murphy — we all came from the House side, and we all voted for legalization while we were there,” Fenton said Friday.
“So I have very strong hopes.”
One of the arguments against legalization is that it would put more marijuana into society and that more young people would be able to obtain it.
But Fenton, who has two sons, 4 and almost 2, dismisses that concern, saying there is already easy access to marijuana throughout New Hampshire, which is surrounded by states that have legalized its sale.
“I think it’s very available right now,” he said. And other countries that have legalized it don’t have those issues. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a news article where someone says, “My son stole a piece from the table and stoned my son.” ”
Meanwhile, other MPs remain in opposition, including Sen. Dennis Ricciardi, and R-Bedford, whose counties include the towns of Fitzwilliam, Greenfield, Hinsdale, Jaffrey, Richmond, Troy and Winchester.
She supported the decriminalization of marijuana and its medical use.
“However, with these same families in mind, I cannot vote to legalize any drug, including marijuana, while Granite State families are already facing the fallout from a nationwide drug epidemic. Now is not the time,” she said in an email Friday. the appropriate”.
“We are seeing a dramatic increase in fentanyl across our state and the tragic consequences experienced by families across New Hampshire. We need to grapple firmly with the current crisis as well as the effects of cannabis use on youth before we even consider exploring further expansion of cannabis – it’s the responsible attitude that must be taken. take it.”
Senator Cary Gendreau, R-Littleton, would be another “no.”
“Medical marijuana has been beneficial to many patients for a variety of reasons. However, I am opposed to the legalization of recreational marijuana.
Even if the House and Senate pass a measure for recreational use, Republican Gov. Chris Sununu still has a chance to kill it.
Senator Daniel Innes, R-Bradford, said he would support rationing “with the right bill” but doubted the governor shared his view.
“I think the composition of the Senate has certainly changed and it is conceivable that it will pass, but I’m sure the governor will veto it,” Ennis said Friday. “So I don’t know if that will affect some of the senators’ vote, it could very well be.”
The governor’s office released a statement on Wednesday saying it doubts the legalization measure will pass the Senate this year, adding, “With teen drug use and overdoses on the rise, the legislature is not expected to see this as a time to ignore the data and move it forward.”
Sununu has opposed proposals to legalize marijuana in the past.
Sen. Donna Soucy, D-Manchester, has voted against legalizing marijuana before, but right now, she doesn’t offer an opinion on this issue or on HB 639, a bipartisan measure that allows adults to have up to four ounces of marijuana, a home-growing permit, State-licensed private farming and retail sales.
Currently, possession of up to three-quarters of an ounce of pot carries a fine of at least $100.
“Senator Soucy has no comment to share at this time,” Ava Hawkes, director of the Senate Minority Caucus, said in an email. “Because there are so many influential pieces in this legislation, Senator Soucy would like to see the final version of what is sent to the Senate from the House before making a comment.”
Sen. Howard Perle, R-Loudon, succeeded Republican Sen. John Reagan, R-Deerfield, who voted to support legalization.
On Friday, Pearl said he was reserving judgment in the case. In 2019, as a state representative, he voted for a legalization bill that passed the House but died in the Senate.
A University of New Hampshire Survey Center poll a year ago found that nearly three-quarters of Granite Staters were in favor of legalizing recreational marijuana.