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Wednesday, May 31, 2023

New Hampshire Governor Now Backs State-Run Recreational Marijuana Industry

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Although the New Hampshire state Senate just days ago torpedoed a bill that would have legalized a new recreational marijuana industry, Republican Gov. Chris Sununu on Friday voiced his support for a different plan: a state-run cannabis industry, similar to New Hampshire’s liquor industry.

New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu

In a press release, Sununu proposed that the legislature – which is in session until June 30 – approve a new bill with a new approach that would keep the industry in the hands of the state government instead of private enterprise.

“I stand ready to sign a legalization bill that puts the state of New Hampshire in the driver’s seat, focusing on harm reduction  - not profits,” Sununu said. “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. As such, the bill that was defeated in (New Hampshire) this session was not the right path for our state.”

No other state has taken such an approach, and it’s unclear if there’s enough time or political willpower to get such a bill through the New Hampshire Legislature yet this year.

The move marks a dramatic change of heart for Sununu, who previously maintained that he would veto any adult-use legalization bill.

But, he acknowledged in his statement, “Knowing that a majority of our residents support legalization, it is reasonable to assume change is inevitable. To ignore this reality would be shortsighted and harmful.”

The governor also clarified that he would still veto any legalization bill that doesn’t comport with his vision, which includes strict local control for any city or county that wants to ban commercial cannabis.

He also said he’s against “marijuana miles  -  the term for densely concentrated marijuana shops within one city or town,” and wants to keep cannabis “tax free to undercut the … illicit market.”

“I am supportive of legalizing marijuana in the right way  – with this legislature  –  rather than risk a poorly thought out framework that inevitably could pass under future governors or legislatures. Should the legislature pass future legalization bills without these provisions in place, they will be vetoed,” Sununu said.

New Hampshire is the only state in New England that has not yet legalized recreational marijuana.

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