Governor’s new stance revives New Hampshire marijuana effort

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — Gov. Chris Sununu’s recent shift to support marijuana legalization has inspired a last-minute push for new legislation.

Though several bipartisan bills in support of legalizing recreational marijuana have cleared the House in recent years, Sununu opposed them and they ultimately failed in the Senate. But after the latest defeat earlier this month, Sununu announced that he would back legalization if lawmakers took a different approach.

The House Commerce Committee voted Tuesday to amend an unrelated bill as a vehicle for a new plan where the state regulates marijuana the same way it controls the sale of wine and liquor, in line with what the Republican governor and potential presidential candidate outlined.

The bill that was defeated in the Senate would have included a 12.5% tax levied at the cultivation level. The latest measure is similar to a plan lawmakers considered last year that would put the New Hampshire Liquor Commission in charge of regulating and selling cannabis. But unlike that failed measure, it would allow the state’s medical marijuana dispensaries to sell both medical and recreational cannabis.

Michael Holt, an administrator with the state’s therapeutic cannabis program, said without that provision, the medical marijuana program would be severely threatened.

“Maintaining the ability of the (alternative treatment centers) to enter this market is critical,” said Holt.

Former state Rep. Susan Homola spoke against the bill, saying lawmakers who continue to push for it have ignored data on the harmful effects of legalization. Homola, a Republican, also accused supporters of playing politics with the issue.

“Through the governor’s flip-flop on recreational marijuana in the ninth hour of the legislative session to this committee’s willingness to jam in this bill that’s already been shot down in the Senate … it’s clear that this isn’t way to legislate,” she said.

Nearly half the states, including the rest of New England, allow recreational use of marijuana. Minnesota is poised to become the 23rd state to legalize it after senators voted Saturday to send a bill to Democratic Gov. Tim Walz, who has pledged to sign it into law.

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