New Hampshire lawmakers have a new strategy to legalize marijuana in the state that involves putting a proposed constitutional amendment on the ballot for voters to decide on in 2022.
Reps. Joshua Adjutant (D), Renny Cushing (D) and Andrew Prout (R) each recently filed separate requests with the Office of Legislative Services to draft legislation to refer cannabis legalization questions to voters.
It would take a supermajority 60 percent vote in both chambers to advance any of the measures. But while that may be a tall task in the GOP-controlled legislature, if they’re successful, it would enable lawmakers to avoid a likely veto on statutory reform legislation from anti-legalization Gov. Chris Sununu (R).
Should legislators approve placing a constitutional amendment to legalize cannabis on the ballot, 67 percent of voters would then have to vote in favor for it to be enacted. Recent polling indicates that residents are ready for the reform, with three in four New Hampshirites favoring legalization.
Meanwhile, standalone legalization legislation that’s been retained from this year is set to be taken up when lawmakers reconvene early in 2022, and advocates are hopeful that it will advance based on prior votes in the House. The chamber passed a legalization bill last year, but it died in a Senate committee.
If the Senate again refuses to advance a legalization bill next year, an alternative path is to ask voters to decide. Here’s the text of the brief descriptions of each of the proposed constitutional amendments that lawmakers want to be drafted:
Adjutant: Providing that the state shall make no law prohibiting the use, sale, or cultivation of cannabis for persons over 18 years of age.
Cushing: Providing that adults shall have the right to possess cannabis for personal consumption.
Prout: Providing that all adults have the right to possess, use, and cultivate cannabis, subject to regulation by the legislature.
“Granite Staters are tired of watching cannabis bills pass the House and then die in the Senate,” Matt Simon, director of public and government relations at Prime Alternative Treatment Centers of NH, told Marijuana Moment. “Public opinion is overwhelmingly favorable on the issue, so it’s no surprise that legislators have finally decided to try this approach.”
— Matt Simon (@MattSimonSez) September 15, 2021
Lawmakers in Maryland are also crafting legislation to place a marijuana legalization referendum on the 2022 ballot after the House speaker called for the move.
In New Hampshire, Sununu remains opposed to adult-use legalization, advocates are encouraged that he signed a bill last month adding opioid use disorder as a qualifying condition for the state’s medical cannabis program and also allows out-of-state patients to access dispensaries.
In 2017, the governor signed a bill decriminalizing marijuana possession in the Granite State, though he continues to oppose adding a legal commercial cannabis sales component.
Separately, a New Hampshire Senate committee in March heard testimony on a House-passed bill to allow medical marijuana patients to grow a limited number of plants for personal use. But it was ultimately tabled in the full chamber.
In May, the governor also signed a bill adding insomnia and autism spectrum disorder as medical cannabis qualifying conditions.
Earlier this year, the House passed legislation to let medical cannabis patients grow their own medicine, but it did not clear the Senate.
Photo courtesy of Philip Steffan.