New Hampshire has taken a significant step forward in its pursuit of cannabis legalization by establishing a commission tasked with exploring the potential for a state-run cannabis market. The commission, comprising 17 members with varying views on cannabis policy, aims to draft legislation for the regulated sale of marijuana through state-run stores.
This milestone comes after bipartisan and bicameral lawmakers reached an agreement to initiate incremental cannabis reform, paving the way for the commission’s creation. The group of members appointed to the panel represents a diverse range of interests, including lawmakers from both the House and Senate, professionals in fields such as banking, health, law enforcement, and civil rights, as well as a governor’s designee.
The commission is set to hold its first meeting on September 8, with a tight timeline to study and draft potential legalization legislation. The objective is to present the proposed legislation to lawmakers for consideration in the second half of the upcoming two-year legislative session, commencing in January. The commission’s work is scheduled to conclude by December 1.
One key motivation behind the commission’s focus on creating a state-run cannabis market is Governor Chris Sununu’s endorsement of this reform model. In May, the governor expressed his belief that cannabis legalization is “inevitable” and argued that a state-run system would provide the best means to address health and safety concerns. Sununu’s unexpected support for this approach was a pivotal moment in the state’s cannabis policy landscape.
State Senator Becky Whitley, a commission member and an advocate for comprehensive cannabis legalization in New Hampshire, highlighted the strong public support for cannabis reform. She emphasized the need for real solutions to address the harms associated with marijuana prohibition. New Hampshire remains the only state in New England that has not legalized and regulated cannabis for adult use.
While Governor Sununu appears confident that his state-run legalization proposal will gain legislative approval, it’s worth noting that past efforts in the Senate have not yielded the same level of support. In the previous year, a bill to establish a state-run marijuana program passed the House but was unanimously defeated in the Senate.
As New Hampshire navigates the complexities of cannabis policy reform, the work of the newly formed commission will be closely watched by advocates, policymakers, and industry stakeholders. The outcome of their efforts could profoundly impact the future of cannabis legalization in the state.