A strong majority of New Hampshire residents continue to support marijuana legalization, though opinions are more mixed when it comes to the idea of conducting cannabis sales through a system state-run stores as the governor recently backed, according to a new poll.
The Granite State Poll from the University of New Hampshire (UNH) Survey Center posed a series of cannabis questions to respondents in the survey, which was published on Tuesday, as lawmakers in the state explore different reform proposals, including the possibility of creating a hybridized state-controlled and privately licensed market.
Overall, nearly three in four New Hampshirites (72 percent) said that they favor adult-use legalization in general, including 52 percent who said that they “strongly” support it. Another 21 percent said that they opposed the reform, while seven percent were neutral.
Support for legalization crossed party lines, too, with 85 percent of Democrats, 68 percent of independents and 58 percent of Republicans saying they want prohibition to end.
The poll then asked specifically about the idea of enacting legalization and having the state Liquor Commission operate marijuana shops like they currently do for alcohol. People have more mixed feelings about the model: 60 percent said they support it, 23 percent said they oppose it and 15 percent said they’re neutral.
Democrats were still the most supportive of the proposal at 75 percent. Republicans and independents were both evenly divided, backing it at 49 percent and 50 percent, respectively.
Asked about how Gov. Chris Sununu’s (R) recent support for the state-run cannabis legalization model affected their own views on the issue, the majority (64 percent) said it had no effect at all, while 26 percent said it made them more likely to support legalization and nine percent said it made them less likely.
Among those who said that they opposed having the state control marijuana sales, the majority (67 percent) said that it was because they generally oppose legalization, while 31 percent said they wanted a different regulatory model.
The poll involved interviews with 1,105 New Hampshire residents from May 18-22, with a +/-2.9 percentage point margin of error.
— UNH Survey Center (@UNHSurveyCenter) May 23, 2023
Overall, the survey seems to show that lawmakers are taking steps that are consistent with the will of voters by pursuing legalization again this session, and most people would still be embracive of setting up a state-run market, though there is a sizable pool of people who want sales to be conducted through licensed stores that are privately run.
That said, while the poll didn’t specifically ask about a House-passed legalization bill from bipartisan leadership that would have created a more conventional marijuana industry, the Senate rejected that proposal earlier this month.
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Now the question before the legislature is whether they will take Sununu up on his newfound support and move to pass a state-run legalization bill this session.
A House committee opened the door to that possibility on Wednesday by voting to reconsider an unrelated bill on alcohol payment penalties. The intent is to amend that legislation to create a cannabis market that involves a combination of state-controlled storefronts and private individuals licensed to run state agency shops, while also allowing existing dispensaries to obtain dual licenses to serve patients and adult consumers.
Meanwhile, the Senate voted last week to create a study commission to examine potential legalization models, with a commission required to submit a report to the legislature by December that includes recommendations on enacting the reform.
The Senate also moved to table legislation last week 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 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.