The governor of New Hampshire has signed a bill into law to establish a commission charged with laying the legislative groundwork for a state-run cannabis market.

Gov. Chris Sununu (R) put his signature to the legislation despite his personal misgivings about marijuana legalization, although he has described the reform as “inevitable”.

Initially, the legislation only called for a commission to study the viability of a state-run model of legal cannabis sales in New Hampshire. However, prior to its eventual passage around two months ago, an amendment was included that mandates the commission draft a state-run legalization bill based on the findings of its study, which is due for December 1.

This measure will then be considered by New Hampshire lawmakers in the second of the two-year session starting in January 2024.

“New Hampshire has an opportunity to safely regulate the sale of marijuana with a model few others can provide,” Sununu said. “By establishing a commission to study state-controlled sales, this bill will bring stakeholders from across New Hampshire together to ensure that preventing negative impacts upon kids remains our number one priority.”

It is widely expected that House Commerce and Consumer Affairs Committee Chairman John Hunt (R) will sit on the commission once it is established. He has been involved in various attempts to reform New Hampshire’s marijuana laws in the past year, including a dual-licensing measure for medical marijuana dispensaries and a recent bill to create a multi-tiered cannabis market that would accommodate private sellers and state-run outlets.

This latter measure faltered, however, despite Sununu’s surprise declaration that he is now in favor of state-run cannabis legalization.

Even with Sununu’s support, the prospects of a state-run cannabis legalization bill passing the legislature remains unclear. While the House approved a conventional marijuana legalization bill earlier this year, the Senate has remained intransigent against the reform. A state-run marijuana legalization bill also cleared the House last year before stalling in the Senate.

The bill Sununu has now signed into law also removes the requirement for prospective medical marijuana patients to first try opioid-based treatments before they can receive a physician’s recommendation for cannabis. It further clarifies that sales of hemp-derived products, such as delta-8 THC, are prohibited in the state.

state marijuana laws