It seems that because the list of U.S. states that have legalized medical and recreational cannabis is rapidly lengthening, the debate over U.S. cannabis policy is evolving at an accelerated pace.
This should come as no surprise though, with a total of 32 U.S. states having legalized medical marijuana and 10 states having legalized recreational cannabis so far, and with several more in the pipelines.
Steve Shurtleff, the Democratic Speaker of the state House of Representatives, says that both his chamber and the Senate likely have enough support to override any such veto, even though he too was recently opposed to cannabis legalization.
Published in a story in the Boston Globe on Friday, the Speaker said, “It’s going to pass. It’s burying our head in the sand to think that if we continue to make it illegal in New Hampshire that people won’t be using marijuana.”
Earlier this month, Governor Sununu stated that he would “absolutely” veto any bill to legalize cannabis in New Hampshire “regardless of what the language looks like.”
Sununu, who was reelected in the November’s midterms, signed a bill decriminalizing cannabis possession last year.
Although Sununu has opposed further legalization measures, his opposition may be futile if Shurtleff is correct that enough lawmakers support the move and decide to override the Governor.
The New Hampshire House initially approved legislation to legalize possession of small amounts of cannabis, in addition to allowing limited home cultivation. However, the bill was later sent back to a committee whose members recommended conducting a study instead of sending the legislation on to the state Senate
Money seems to be one of the main deciding issues within the commission’s report, which was released in November, which found that legalizing cannabis in New Hampshire would generate up to $58 million in annual tax revenue.
“Representative Shurtleff’s evolution on cannabis reflects an encouraging trend among elected Democrats in New Hampshire,” said Matt Simon, the New England political director for the Marijuana Policy Project. “While Governor Sununu and many Republicans have inexplicably doubled down on their support for prohibition, Shurtleff and most Democrats can see that regulating cannabis is both good politics and smart policy.”
A staunch leader on cannabis reform in New Hampshire, Representative Renny Cushing (D), released details this week of a bill he plans to file in the new session stating, “We’ve done our best to address every concern that was raised by the legislature’s marijuana study committee.”
Unlike the legislation that recently passed the House, the new bill would create a system of legal and regulated cannabis sales in New Hampshire in addition to allowing adults to grow their own.
Fortunately for proponents of cannabis legalization, the effort to pass Cushing’s bill, or one similar to it, will likely gain additional support from the fact that Democrats took control of both chambers of the legislature in November’s midterm elections. Consequently, several anti-legalization Republican incumbents were defeated and replaced with Democratic supporters.
If the Granite State’s Speaker of the House is to be belived, New Hampshire may very well be the next U.S. state to legalize recreational cannabis.