BOSTON (WBZ NewsRadio) -- The Republican governor of the “Live Free Or Die” state seems to have picked a side when it comes to marijuana home cultivation.
He says the state’s medical marijuana patients cannot legally grow cannabis plants on their own private property.
This week, Governor Chris Sununu vetoed the home grow bill, despite the fact that the legislation passed the New Hampshire Senate by a 14-10 vote. It also passed the House’s Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee 17-4, and it got through the full House with bipartisan support in a voice vote.
Sununu says he vetoed the bill because he believes that those who grow their medicine at home might let it seep into the black market. He says, if he let the bill pass into law, it would “bypass… public health and safety guardrails and make the job of law enforcement significantly more difficult.”
There are currently more than 7,000 medical marijuana patients in the Granite State, and nearly 450 caregivers enrolled in the program. For now, they will all have to stick to buying their medicine from five licensed medical dispensaries.
And if they live in northern New Hampshire, the closest place they can access their medicine is more than 100 miles away.
Those who supported the home grow bill say it would have permitted qualified patients to grow up to six plants at home, which would have helped lower the cost of, and increased access to the medicine. Rep. Renny Cushing, the sponsor of the bill, said it is an injustice for a New Hampshire resident to be considered a felon for “growing their own medicine.”
Governor Sununu has signed two bills related to expanding the medical market. One bill allows physician assistants to recommend medical cannabis after that 90-day patient relationship has been established, and another bill gave the go-ahead for medical dispensaries to open a second location in the region. That eventually led to the state’s fifth medical store opening in July. He has also signed a bill to decriminalize cannabis possession up to 3/4th of an ounce.
But his most recent blockade on home grows is just part of a spate of marijuana-related vetoes by Sununu this year.
In June, he vetoed legislation that would have opened New Hampshire’s medical marijuana industry up to for-profit businesses. That move dealt a strong blow to local cannabis entrepreneurs. Sununu claimed it would have given out-of-state entities an incentive to buy a stake in the New Hampshire medical industry.
In July, Sununu vetoed a bill that would have eliminated the requirement for a patient to have at least a three month long relationship with a health care provider before being allowed to get a medical marijuana card. The governor said he feels it’s necessary for there to be a strong patient-provider relationship before they’re designated as a medical marijuana patient.
During a 2018 monthly meeting of the Governor’s Commission on Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention, Treatment, and Recovery, Sununu promised to “absolutely” veto recreational marijuana legislation “regardless of what the language looks like.”
A bill for recreational legalization passed the New Hampshire House in April 2019 by a vote of 200-163, but the Senate voted to delay action on the bill until January 2020.
Meanwhile, Sununu has been meeting with leading national anti-legalization hawk Kevin Sabet to figure out a strategy against the legalization bill.
Sabet is the founder of the lobby group Smart Approaches to Marijuana, also known as SAM. The organization’s mission is to push strong anti-pot rhetoric that echoes the prohibitionist stance of Harry Anslinger and Ronald Regan. SAM has never made public its source of funding, leading many to speculate that it is funded by industries like big pharma, tobacco, and private prisons, which stand to lose out if cannabis is legalized.
The pro-legalization group NORML says both chambers of the New Hampshire General Court are likely to hold votes to override the Governor’s veto of the home grow bill next month. If two-thirds of them are on board, the law to allow home cultivation can go into effect. NORML says residents can contact their local legislators to weigh in on that effort.
As Sununu blocks laws that would allow his state’s adult residents to buy legal, regulated cannabis, people have started flocking to the adult pot shops across the borders in Massachusetts, Maine, and Vermont. It seems New Hampshire will continue to stand as an island of prohibition until Governor Sununu is either overridden, or replaced by a lawmaker who will sign laws that reflect the will of the voters.
Blunt Talk is a podcast about cannabis hosted by Brit Smith every Monday. You can listen to all previous podcasts on iHeartRadio.