New Hampshire Governor Will Not Approve Latest Recreational Cannabis Bill

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Recreational cannabis legalization in New Hampshire encounters another setback.

In mid-April 2024, New Hampshire governor Chris Sununu stated that he will not sign the latest bill to legalize recreational cannabis in the state (1). HB 1633 was passed twice this year, most recently with a vote of 239-136, and lawmakers have been continually working to align the bill with the framework outlined by the governor in the past (1,2). Governor Sununu has stated he would approve a program that, among other elements, would allow the state to control distribution and access and be modeled after state-run liquor operations (3,4).

“With us controlling the retail on the marketing and the branding side, we would be able to control all that and we do it really well,” Governor Sununu had explained in August 2023, in outlining the framework for cannabis legalization (4). “Our New Hampshire liquor stores are ranked one of the top five retailers in the country. So we have a model that works. Other states don’t really have that, and so we can build off of that.”


Introduced by Representative Erica Layon, HB 1633 would allow adults ages 21 and older to possess up to four ounces of cannabis and it would allow sales from a maximum of 15 retail locations in the state (1).

Medical cannabis is already legal in the state and some lawmakers have voiced concerns that a recreational market could have a negative effect on the current medical cannabis programs and on local growers (2).

The journey to recreational cannabis in the state has been a rocky one. On November 27th, 2023, a specially formed commission failed to arrive at a consensus establishing recommendations on the legalization of recreational cannabis, though the committee did accept the governor’s request to limit the number of retail shops to 15 (5).

In June 2023, the Senate failed to pass a bill that would have made recreational cannabis legal (3). In the wake of the event, Governor Sununu broached the framework of how legalization could occur instead (3). “Knowing that a majority of our residents support legalization, it is reasonable to assume change is inevitable,” Sununu had explained in a statement (3). “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.”

In 2017 the governor had signed a bill to decriminalize possession of small amounts of cannabis (3).

New Hampshire remains the only state in New England without recreational cannabis legalization, and it looks to remain that way, at least in the foreseeable future (5). The bill now goes to the Senate where it could possibly be changed for a better chance of being approved by the governor (1).


  1. Herrington, A.J., New Hampshire Governor Won’t Sign Marijuana Legalization Bill (accessed Apr 17, 2024).
  2. Sexton, A., New Hampshire lawmakers launch another attempt to legalize marijuana (accessed Apr 17, 2024).
  3. McEvoy, E. New Hampshire Governor Outlines Path for Recreational Cannabis Legalization in the State (accessed Apr 17, 2024).
  4. McEvoy, E. Cannabis Legalization in New Hampshire: Examining A State-Run Model (accessed Apr 17, 2024).
  5. McEvoy, E. Rocky Road to Legalization: New Hampshire Commission Reaches No Consensus for Recreational Cannabis Recommendations (accessed Apr 17, 2024).