The New Hampshire Senate’s late-breaking support for marijuana legalization this week is historic.

The chamber has never before backed legalization, repeatedly rejecting plans endorsed by colleagues in the New Hampshire House. But with its bipartisan vote late Thursday night to allow 15 franchises to sell recreational cannabis starting in 2026, senators may have created a policy Gov. Chirs Sununu, also a longstanding skeptic of legalization, is game to sign. (Sununu’s office didn’t respond to a request for comment on the Senate vote, but he has previously said he would support legalizing marijuana “in the right way ” rather than risk a poorly thought-out framework.”)

But before the bill gets to Sununu, it will first need to find favor with the New Hampshrie House. Lawmakers there have backed myriad bills to legalize cannabis, regardless of which party held the majority. But key players on the issue say the version of this bill that passed the Senate may test that record.

“I would like to kill my own bill, because this will make things worse,” said Rep. Erica Layon, a Derry Republican.

Layon was lead sponsor of House Bill 1633 and worked with House coleagues to craft a bill that could meet Sununu’s stipulations for signing any legalization plan: a 15-store limit, tight regulatory control by the New Hampshire Liquor Commission, and approval by local voters before any store could operate in a community. Earlier this year, the proposal passed the House on a bipartisan vote, 239 to 141.

But Layon says what senators did to change her bill “crossed a lot of lines.” She took issue with their decision to drop legal possession amounts from 4 ounces to 2 ounces, and to push off legalization to 2026. She also said their plan to rely on a franchise model lacks transparency.

“I’m going to get up and speak against my own bill,” Layon said Friday.

And she’s not alone.

“I think there are already a huge number of Democrats and Republicans who are ready to vote against this bill,” said Rep. Anita Burroughs, a Democrat from Bartlett and a co-sponsor of the original House legalization plan.

Many pushing for legalization have pitched this year as their best chance yet to have New Hampshire join the rest of New England in allowing recreational cannabis, given the uncertainty in who the next governor will be after this year, and the fact that the federal government is moving to reclassify marijuana as a less harmful drug.

Burroughs, for one, says she doesn’t feel the need to rush — or to knuckle under and back a bill she doesn’t like, just because Sununu has said he could sign it.

“For me, I’m willing to take the crapshoot and hope that we have a governor who is willing to legalize cannabis in a more ‘Live Free or Die’ way,” she said.

The House is set to act on the Senate’s version of the bill next week. If lawmakers there give it a thumbs up, the bill will head to Sununu’s desk. But if the House votes the bill down, its fate could hinge on the work of House and Senate negotiators on a committee of conference.

Senate President Jeb Bradley, who opposes legalization, has said repeatedly that he is committed to ensuring the work of the Senate is preserved.

“All of us who have worked for a better product need to fortify our effort to ensure that the product, if it’s going to pass, is a better product,” Bradley said on the Senate floor late Thursday.

 Some of the plan’s original House sponsors say the Senate’s changes went too far.  Read More  

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