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New Hampshire Governor Dismisses Legalization Bill’s Chances

Democratic and Republican lawmakers in New Hampshire are gearing up for another effort to legalize marijuana, but the state’s governor doesn’t think they will succeed.

According to New Hampshire Public Radio, the latest New Hampshire cannabis bill is supported by members from both sides. The proposal was discussed at Wednesday’s hearing by the House Commerce Committee. 

Republicans control New Hampshire’s state government. Republicans hold majority in both state Senate and House of Representatives. 

The state’s governor, Chris Sununu, is also a Republican. 

The proposal, which was also considered last year when marijuana was legalized, has revealed a division within the New Hampshire GOP. 

While the House of Representatives has “repeatedly backed plans to legalize cannabis,” according to New Hampshire Public Radio, the Republican-led state Senate has not been on board. 

Sununu represents another obstruction to the bill. 

“I’ve always said now’s not the time. It is different in every state. I’ve always wanted to see what works and what doesn’t,” Sununu said in a gubernatorial debate last year. “There may be a way to do it but given that we are facing an opioid crisis, given that we still don’t know what works with other states, it could be inevitable, I get it, but you got to be patient about how you do it and the steps that are best for New Hampshire.”

On Wednesday, Sununu’s office was dismissive of the latest legalization’s bill’s prospects.

“It’s failed in the Senate repeatedly, in both Republican-held years and Democrat-held years,” the governor’s office said, as quoted by New Hampshire Public Radio. “With teen drug use and overdoses on the rise, it is not anticipated that the legislature will see this as a time to ignore the data and move it forward.”

Sununu, however, has supported other cannabis reforms. 

According to the Associated Press, “Sununu signed legislation decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana, expanding access to medical marijuana and creating a system for annulling old convictions for marijuana possession,” but “a bill to legalize recreational use has never reached his desk.”

“Governor Sununu has done more on the issues surrounding marijuana reform than any other governor in New Hampshire history,” Sununu spokesperson Ben Vihstadt told the AP.

Last month, the legislation was announced by Jason Osborne, House Majority Leader of the House of Representatives and Matt Wilhelm as the House Democratic Leader.

“The House has long stood united in finding a pathway to getting this done for Granite Staters,” Osborne said at the time. “With any luck, the Senate will come around to supporting the will of the vast majority of New Hampshire citizens.”

Osborne voted against the bill in the House Commerce Committee on Wednesday.

“What you are looking at is a result of a number of months of work by an entire coalition of groups and advocates, everything from the business side to the consumer side, the civil rights side to the economic liberty side, as well as the recovery community and people concerned about child safety,” Osborne said at the hearing, as quoted by the Associated Press. “It’s about time we get something done.”

The Associated Press reports that “a coalition that includes both the ACLU of New Hampshire and the conservative group Americans for Prosperity is backing a bipartisan bill to legalize the drug, regulate and tax retail operations and allow it to be grown at home,” and that most of the revenue generated from marijuana sales “would go toward reducing the state’s pension liability, with some going to substance abuse prevention programs and other groups.”