Marijuana group endorses Marchand, EdelblutBy DAN TUOHY
New Hampshire Union Leader
July 26. 2016 1:18PM
A group that wants to end marijuana prohibition, and to have pot be regulated like alcohol, has endorsed conservative Republican Frank Edelblut and liberal Democrat Steve Marchand for governor.
It is the first formal major endorsements in New Hampshire from the Marijuana Policy Project, an organization that advocated for the state’s medicinal marijuana law and continues to fight for decriminalization of small amounts of pot.
The endorsements are twinned with the Marijuana Policy Project’s voter guide for the state primary, which is Sept. 13.
The group also endorsed former state Sen. Jim Rubens, a Hanover Republican who is challenging U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-NH, in the GOP primary, based in part on Ayotte’s past opposition to decriminalization.
Gov. Maggie Hassan, a Democrat running for U.S. Senate, has similarly opposed decriminalization.
“Any of the Democratic candidates would be an upgrade from Maggie Hassan,” said Matt Simon, New England Political Director for the Marijuana Policy Project.
The New Hampshire Legislature considered another bill earlier this year for lowering the penalty for first-time possession, including language to make one-quarter ounce a violation, rather than a Class A offense, but the decriminalization went nowhere.
The three other major GOP gubernatorial candidates -- state Sen. Jeanie Forrester of Meredith, Ted Gatsas, and Executive Councilor Chris Sununu -- did not respond to the survey. The Marijuana Policy Project cites Forrester's opposition to both decriminalization and medicinal marijuana. Gatsas, as a state senator in 2009, opposed a medical marijuana bill that session, while Sununu expressed support for decriminalization during a GOP forum earlier this month, according to the voter guide.
Edelblut, a state representative from Wilton, voted for decriminalization legislation in 2015 and 2016.
Democrats Colin Van Ostern, an Executive Councilor from Concord, and former New Hampshire Securities Regulations chief Mark Connolly of New Castle, did not respond to the survey.
The survey asks candidates for governor and state Senate whether or not they support eliminating penalties for possession of small amounts of marijuana, if they support legalizing use for those 21 and older, and if they support allowing people to grow a limited number of marijuana plants for personal use.
Simon said his organization will continue to advocate for those three areas of policy. He contends marijuana can also be an effective part of New Hampshire fighting a heroin and opioid epidemic.