Three new pieces of bipartisan marijuana legislation have been introduced in the New Hampshire legislature, opening the door to more modest reform measures at the same time the state moves closer toward fully legalizing cannabis.
Just weeks ago, the chances of adult-use legalization happening in New Hampshire in 2019 seemed slim. But recent comments from leading lawmakers, including those previously opposed to legalization, have signaled that the state is prepared to act in spite of resistance from Gov. Chris Sununu (R).
And now that the 2019 legislative session is underway, there are signs that marijuana reform will be a major part of this year’s agenda. The three cannabis bills filed this week represent the latest sign.
One of the new proposals, which were all introduced by Rep. Renny Cushing (D), would allow individuals with convictions for cannabis possession under three-fourths of an ounce to have their criminal and court records cleared if the offense occurred before September 2017, when the state’s decriminalization policy took effect.
Another would add opioid addiction and misuse to the list of conditions that qualify patients for medical marijuana.
And a third would give qualified medical cannabis patients and designated caregivers the right to cultivate marijuana for personal use. Currently they mush purchase their medicine from dispensaries.
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Rep. John Reagan (R) is the sole co-sponsor for the latter two bills, but the annulment initiative currently has six co-sponsors, including two Republicans.
All of these developments come as New Hampshire becomes a surprise battleground for full legalization. Though Sununu vowed to veto any legalization bill that reaches his desk, House Speaker Steve Shurtleff (D) recently said that his chamber and the Senate would have the votes to override that veto.
“It’s going to pass,” Shurtleff, who previously voted against legalization himself, told The Boston Globe. “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.”
On a separate note, a survey of likely voters in New Hampshire’s 2020 Democratic primary showed that about 10 percent considered marijuana legalization their top issue, placing it ahead of education and voting rights on the list of concerns.