As New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu (R) continues to obstruct marijuana reform, cannabis advocates have begun to scoff at the Granite State's 'Live Free or Die' motto.
"The only thing libertarian about our state is the motto," Greg Raymond, 30, a ski resort server in Whitefield told The Boston Globe. "Now it’s become an embarrassing motto: 'Live free or die, but don't touch that plant.'"
With support for cannabis legalization reaching almost 70 percent in New Hampshire, Raymond definitely isn't the only one who feels this way. Nevertheless, Governor Sununu has pledged to veto any and all cannabis legalization bills that hit his desk.
Of course, this isn't stopping New Hampshirites from getting weed—even legally. The state is now surrounded on all sides by places where the drug is fully legalized for adult consumption: Massachusetts, Vermont, Maine and Canada. And that's to say nothing of the illicit market that's already thriving in New Hampshire.
"Marijuana's already ubiquitous in New Hampshire, and it's completely unregulated," said Matt Simon - New England Political Director for the Marijuana Policy Project. "[Legalization] would take hundreds of millions of dollars out of criminals’ pockets and divert them into a regulated marketplace where it would create jobs and produce tax revenue."
That extra revenue could save lives if legislators funneled it into fighting the state's massive opioid problem. Deaths caused by opioid overdoes are nearly three times the national average in New Hampshire. But that's unlikely to happen under the watch of Governor Sununu, who has tapped notorious anti-cannabis advocate Kevin Sabet to help him fight against marijuana reform. Sabet still clings to the debunked notion that cannabis use leads to abusing hard drugs like heroin.
"At a time when New Hampshire is grappling with the opioid crisis, the last thing the state needs is more access to more drugs," Sabet said recently. "We know that Big Tobacco and Big Pharma are morphing into Big Marijuana, so we're going to be working together to get that information out to the citizens of New Hampshire."
Those words put Sabet as well as Sununu on a collision course with the state legislature. New Hampshire Democrats - which have taken control of both the state Senate and the House - have made marijuana legalization part of their platform. And while Sununu could try to overrule them, House Speaker Steve Shurtleff (D) says he thinks they will soon have the power to override the governor's veto.
"It's going to pass," Shurtleff said. "It's burying our head in the sand to think that if we continue to make it illegal in New Hampshire that people won’t be using marijuana."
New Hampshire remains the only major hold out on marijuana reform in New England, as both Rhode Island and Connecticut have begun mulling over the idea is recent months.