New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu

New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu takes part in a panel discussion during a Republican Governors Association conference on Nov. 15, 2022, in Orlando, Fla.

(The Center Square) – New Hampshire’s governor supports the legalization of marijuana for adults age 21 and over.

Republican Gov. Chris Sununu said Friday he is in favor of legalizing marijuana in the Granite State, even as a Senate committee killed House Bill 639 on Thursday.

The Senate Judiciary Committee ruled the bill as “inexpedient to legislate” by a 3-2 vote, meaning the bill would not exit the committee to be taken up by the chamber.

In a statement released just before noon, Sununu said that during his years as governor a bill that would legalize marijuana “has never garnered enough bipartisan support to reach my desk.”

“I have never vetoed legislation to legalize recreational marijuana,” Sununu said. “In 2017, I was proud to be the first governor in New Hampshire history to sign legislation decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana so that no one would go to jail for simple possession. We expanded access to medical marijuana and provided a pathway to annul old convictions for marijuana possession.”

New Hampshire is the lone state in New England, even as neighboring Canada legalized marijuana in 2018, that has not legalized the federally listed Schedule 1 drug, set up a market, and generated tax revenue from sales.

However, as tax revenue from marijuana sales in the northeast have continued to climb, Sununu is now throwing his support behind legalization efforts.

“In the past, I said now is not the time to legalize marijuana in New Hampshire,” Sununu said. “Across this country and in the midst of an unprecedented opioid crisis, other states rushed to legalize marijuana with little guardrails. As a result, many are seeing the culture and fabric of their state turn.”

House Bill 639 was ratified by the House of Representatives 272-109 vote on April 6. The bill called for establishing procedures for the legalization, regulation, and taxation of marijuana, in addition to licensing and regulating business, and making appropriations.

Sununu said that while the General Court of New Hampshire has not ratified a bill for him to sign, he recognizes that “a majority of our residents support legalization” and it was “reasonable to assume change is inevitable.”

The veteran governor said ignoring the reality of marijuana legalization in New Hampshire “would be shortsighted and harmful.”

“That is why, with the right policy and framework in place, 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,” the governor said. “Similar to 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.”

While standing behind legalization efforts, Sununu said he would prefer the state avoid heavy concentrations of retailers within one city or two, and cities and towns would also have the power to ban shops.

“The state would not impose any taxes, and should control all messaging, avoiding billboards, commercials, and digital ads that bombard kids on a daily basis.”

Sununu pointed to the marijuana black market as more dangerous than it has been in the past.

“Marijuana and other drugs on the black market are being laced with fentanyl, posing significant risks to our citizens,” Sununu said. “By regulating the sale of marijuana in New Hampshire, the state will ensure our citizens are in a safer place.”

Sununu said the path to marijuana legalization would allow a situation where the stae controlled distribution and access; keeping it away from kids and schools; controlling the market and messaging; reducing access to poly-drugs; and keeping it tax free to undercut cartels who continue to deliver the drug into the state.

“This is a long-term, sustainable solution for our state,” Sununu said. “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. This is the best path forward for our state, and I stand ready and willing to work with the legislature so that we can deliver a legalization bill that is smart, sustainable, and retains the fabric and culture of our state.”

Associate Editor

Brent Addleman is an Associate Editor and a veteran journalist with more than 25 years of experience. He has served as editor of newspapers in Pennsylvania and Texas, and has also worked at newspapers in Delaware, Maryland, New York, and Kentucky.