New Hampshire Governor Outlines Path for Recreational Cannabis Legalization in the State

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After the most recent cannabis legalization bill failed to pass the Senate, Governor Sununu issued a statement explaining how legalization could occur instead.

In May 2023, the New Hampshire Senate voted against a bill that would have allowed adults to legally possess up to four ounces of cannabis and would have placed regulation responsibility with the state’s Liquor Commission. Critics of the bill argued that the law would have ultimately hurt minors by suggesting that cannabis usage is harmless (1). Though the state does have a medical cannabis program, New Hampshire remains the only state in New England without recreational legalization (1).

Soon after the bill failed to pass, Governor Chris Sununu issued a statement on the future of cannabis legalization in the state, including his critique of the failed bill and his outline of a sustainable path to legalization (2). He stated a desire to avoid the examples of other states rushing into legalization during the opioid crisis and a need to protect children from accessing cannabis.


“Knowing that a majority of our residents support legalization, it is reasonable to assume change is inevitable,” Sununu explained (2). “To ignore this reality would be shortsighted and harmful. That is why, with the right policy and framework in place, I stand ready to sign a legalization bill that puts the State of NH in the driver’s seat, focusing on harm reduction—not profits. Similar to our Liquor sales, this path helps to keep substances away from kids by ensuring the State of New Hampshire retains control of marketing, sales, and distribution—eliminating any need for additional taxes. As such, the bill that was defeated in NH this session was not the right path for our state.”

According to the press release, an approved path to legalization does the following (2):

  • Allows the state to control distribution and access
  • Keeps marijuana away from kids and schools
  • Controls the marketing and messaging
  • Prohibits marijuana miles [a dense concentration of cannabis dispensaries within one area]
  • Empowers towns to keep out if they choose
  • Reduces access to poly-drugs
  • Keeps it tax free to undercut the cartels who continue to drive NH's illicit drug market

Governor Sununu noted that in 2017 he signed a bill decriminalizing possession of small amounts of cannabis, but also stated he will veto any bill without the above provisions (2).

“I am supportive of legalizing marijuana in the right way–with this legislature–rather than risk a poorly thought-out framework that inevitably could pass under future governors or legislatures,” Governor Sununu concluded in the press release (2).


  1. Rogers, J. State Senate kills Bill to legalize marijuana in New Hampshire (accessed Jun 1, 2023).
  2. Sununu, C. Governor Chris Sununu statement on marijuana legalization (accessed Jun 1, 2023).