Connect with us


New Hampshire Residents Support Marijuana Legalization Bill That Lawmakers Killed Last Week, Poll Shows



A new poll shows that nearly two thirds of New Hampshire residents support legalizing marijuana, while nearly as many said they support a specific cannabis legalization bill, HB 1633, that House lawmakers voted to reject last week.

“Support for legalizing marijuana for recreational use (65%) has fallen slightly since May 2023 (72%),” says the new Granite State Poll, from the University of New Hampshire’s States of Opinion Project, “largely driven by a fall in support among self-identified Independents (-12 percentage points) and Republicans (-8).”

As for the recently tabled legalization bill—which was just a few votes shy of advancing to the desk of Gov. Chris Sununu (R), who had indicated he’d sign the reform—it had strong support among Democrats and independents, but it was favored by a minority of Republicans. Overall, 61 percent of poll respondents said they back the specific legislation, jut a few percentage points less than overall support for the general concept of legalization.

“Only 16% of Granite Staters say they have heard a lot about the details of the bill,” the survey noted, “45% had heard some about it, 28% have heard not that much, and 10% have heard nothing at all.”

Among the 1,060 participants who’d heard at least something about the bill, 72 percent of Democrats said they strongly or somewhat supported the legislation, as did 70 percent of independents. As for Republicans, 47 percent said they supported the bill, while 38 percent said they strongly or somewhat opposed it.

For much of the legislative session, advocates and lawmakers cited a statistic that 70 percent of Granite Staters supported legalization. A poll from May of last year showed 72 percent support, while one earlier in 2023 found 71 percent support.

In February 2022, meanwhile, 74 percent of residents said they supported legalization—close to what the latest data indicates was a high of 75 percent in 2021.

The current 65 percent level of support for legalization appears to be its lowest point since 2016.

“These results fall in line with the vibe I get from the public,” Rep. Jason Osborne, the House majority leader, told Marijuana Moment in an email. “Now that we have decriminalized up to 3/4 ounce and one can buy legal products right across every border of our tiny state, full retail legalization for NH is just not as important to people as it was a decade ago.”

Possession of up to three quarter of an ounce carries a $100 civil fine in the state. Each of its neighbors—Massachusetts, Maine, Vermont and Canada—has already legalized adult-use marijuana.

Notably, opposition to cannabis legalization in New Hampshire has also generally fallen over the past several years, with just under a fifth (19 percent) of those polled now saying they oppose the reform.

Along ideological lines rather than party split, the poll continued, “majorities of self-described socialists (97%) and progressives (95%) and most libertarians (76%), liberals (72%), and moderates (66%) support legalizing marijuana for recreational use, but only 41% of conservatives agree.”

Among those who said in the latest survey that they opposed HB 1633, three-quarters (75 percent) said it was because they “don’t want to legalize recreational use of marijuana at all.” But 19 percent said it was because they “want to legalize recreational use of marijuana in another way.” Another 6 percent said they didn’t know or weren’t sure.

Whether to support or oppose what most lawmakers agreed was an imperfect proposal to legalize marijuana in New Hampshire was a topic of heated debate ahead of last week’s up-or-down House vote on a conference committee bill that was based largely on a Senate-amended version of the legislation.

Many in the House said their opposition was based on the plan to legalize through a state-controlled franchise model, which would have given the state unprecedented sway over retail stores and consumer prices. The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Erica Layon (R), initially said she wouldn’t put her name on a franchise bill after it had been amended by the Senate, although she ultimately voted to approve the final version.

Last Thursday, after the Senate had passed the legislation, House Democrats tabled the measure—effectively killing it—which sparked accusations that politicians were using the issue to earn the party votes at the ballot box in November.

Karen O’Keefe, director of state policies for Marijuana Policy Project and a supporter of HB 1633, drew attention to the poll’s indication of majority support for the bill, especially among Democratic voters. She said last week’s action by House Democrats failed to represent the will of the people.

“When the House snatched defeat from the jaws of victory last week, it failed to pass a bill with nearly 3:1 support,” O’Keefe wrote in an email to Marijuana Moment. “The House’s refusal to stand with voters condemns cannabis consumers to continued criminalization—possibly for years—and deprives the state of tens of millions of dollars in annual revenue.”

“The loudest voices—those who opposed HB 1633 based on the franchise model—were just that, the loudest,” she continued. “They were not representative of voters writ large.”

Osborne, the House majority leader, said he was “not surprised about the support of HB 1633.”

“While people do want marijuana brought out of the black market for public health and safety, they also just do not want to have to see and smell it everywhere they go all day,” he said. “They are going to prefer it to be sold, just like liquor, in a limited number of specialty stores that are located where they will not interfere with other commerce.”

One reason some say the vote to table the bill could be especially consequential is because Sununu is not seeking re-election, and his replacement could significantly impact the likelihood of reform during the next legislative session.

Two top Republican gubernatorial contenders, former U.S. Rep. Kelly Ayotte and former state Sen. Chuck Morse, have already said they would oppose the reform if elected.

According to the Granite State Poll released this week, Ayotte appears to have a sizable lead, with 53 percent of likely GOP voters saying they have a favorable opinion of Ayotte and 24 percent saying they have a favorable opinion of Morse.

Democratic candidate Joyce Craig, a three-term mayor of Manchester whose last term ended in January, has said she’d support legalization. The poll found that 38 percent of likely Democratic voters thought favorably of Craig. Democratic competitor Cinde Warmington, a member of the state’s Executive Council, had a 35 percent favorability rating, but nearly half (47 percent) of Democratic voters said they didn’t know enough about Warmington to say, while only about a third (32 percent) felt that way about Craig.

As for Sununu, the poll found that 55 percent of New Hampshire residents approve of his job performance, while 42 percent disapprove.

Lawmakers did send two bills to the governor last week that would expand the state’s existing medical marijuana program: one to allow doctors to recommend it for any condition they believe would be improved through cannabis use, and the other to expand the pool of healthcare professionals who can recommend the drug.

New Hampshire lawmakers worked extensively on marijuana reform issues last session and attempted to reach a compromise to enact legalization through a multi-tiered system that would include state-controlled shops, dual licensing for existing medical cannabis dispensaries and businesses privately licensed to individuals by state agencies. The legislature ultimately hit an impasse on the complex legislation.

Bicameral lawmakers also convened the state commission tasked with studying legalization and proposing a path forward last year, though the group ultimately failed to arrive at a consensus or propose final legislation.

The Senate defeated a more conventional House-passed legalization bill last year, HB 639, despite its bipartisan support.

Last May, the House defeated marijuana legalization language that was included in a Medicaid expansion bill. The Senate also moved to table another piece of legislation that month that would have allowed patients and designated caregivers to cultivate up to three mature plants, three immature plants and 12 seedlings for personal therapeutic use.

After the Senate rejected the reform bills in 2022, the House included legalization language as an amendment to separate criminal justice-related legislation—but that was also struck down in the opposite chamber.

This story has been updated with comments from House Majority Leader Rep. Jason Osborne.

State AGs And Former DEA Leaders Push Agency To Hold Public Hearing On Marijuana Rescheduling Proposal

Photo courtesy of Chris Wallis // Side Pocket Images.

Marijuana Moment is made possible with support from readers. If you rely on our cannabis advocacy journalism to stay informed, please consider a monthly Patreon pledge.
Become a patron at Patreon!

Ben Adlin, a senior editor at Marijuana Moment, has been covering cannabis and other drug policy issues professionally since 2011. He was previously a senior news editor at Leafly, an associate editor at the Los Angeles Daily Journal and a Coro Fellow in Public Affairs. He lives in Washington State.


Marijuana News In Your Inbox

Get our daily newsletter.

Support Marijuana Moment

Marijuana News In Your Inbox


Get our daily newsletter.