CONWAY — The New Hampshire Cannabis Party — which is a political party supporting legalization of marijuana — has set up an office in town and is endorsing candidates for state office who they think will support “smart” legalization. On Sunday, it released a statement announcing its “full-scale campaign for common-sense cannabis legalization” in New Hampshire. The party has an office at 90 Odell Hill Road in Conway.
“Contrary to conventional wisdom, cannabis legalization and commerce represents much more than just a few extra jobs and tax revenue,” it said. “Rather, it offers a generational opportunity for comprehensive, multi-pronged prosperity and progress for all New Hampshire citizens.”
Nathaniel Gurien of Sandwich is its founder and executive director. The website is nhcannabis.org.
Gurien and his wife, Diane first moved to the valley in 2003, then moved back to New Jersey in 2013 to support their aging parents. They moved to Sandwich in 2020.
According to LinkedIn, Gurien is CEO of Orion Group NYC, “Consultants to High-Risk & Cash-Intensive Industries Investment, Financing and Strategic Planning, Turnkey Administrative and Operations Services.”
Gurien became interested in cannabis while living out of state and created a company called Fincann that offers “cannabis-friendly banking and financial services.”
He attempted to get on the Sandwich ballot to run as an independent as did his vice chair, Kaitlyn McCarthy, who was a candidate for Senate District 6 but didn’t get enough signatures to qualify.
Gurien and McCarthy aren’t running as write-ins. Instead, the N.H. Cannabis Party is endorsing state-level candidates who believe in the cannabis cause.
In a phone interview Monday, Gurien said legalization wouldn’t just create jobs for growers, dispensaries and such. He said it might also spur innovation in pharmaceuticals and be a boon for New Hampshire’s tourism industry.
His website contains a lengthy list of businesses that stand to benefit from legalization and include legal, finance, general contractors, public relations and regulatory compliance.
Gurien said common-sense reform would involve legalization for adults over 21 years old. There would also still be prohibitions on driving while intoxicated.
On his website, nhcannabis.org, “we now have close to 50 bipartisan candidates (they’ve endorsed), across many state offices from governor down to state rep,” said Gurien. “It’s running somewhere in the neighborhood of, oh, I don’t know, 40 percent Republican, a few Libertarians and the rest Democrats. But it’s pretty bipartisan.”
He estimates there will eventually be about 200 candidates added to the website.
The N.H. Cannabis Party posts on nhcann.org photos and short write-ups about each candidate it endorses, along with links to the candidates’ websites. This is done with permission of the candidates, Gurien said.
For governor, the party endorsed Democrat Tom Sherman, who is challenging incumbent Chris Sununu. It also endorsed several House and Senate candidates from Carroll County, including Bill Marsh (D-Brookfield), who is challenging incumbent Jeb Bradley (R-Wolfeboro).
Reached Monday, Marsh said: “My website clearly says I support legalization provided we pay attention to public health concerns. My opponent clearly stated at the Tamworth event that he opposes legalization, which he has done over the years. So I believe it’s entirely logical the N.H. Cannabis Party would do this.”
Rep. Anita Burroughs (D-Bartlett) also was endorsed. She is running in House District 2 along with Democrat Chris McAleer of Jackson against Republicans Dan Bacon of Chatham and Gene Chandler of Bartlett.
“Nathaniel Gurien of Sandwich is the mover and shaker behind this movement,” said Burroughs to the Sun in an email.
“He would like to see cannabis move from the black market to the mainstream. As part of this, he is championing the legalization of cannabis in New Hampshire. I support this effort, and N.H. would be following in the path of 19 other states, plus D.C. Our neighbors Massachusetts and Maine have legalized marijuana.
“Cannabis has been demonized as a dangerous drug, a notion that has been widely debunked. It’s time to make it legal in N.H. and reap the entrepreneurial and tax benefits that it will bring to our state,” Burroughs said.
Michael Costable (R-Freedom) is the lone Carroll County Republican to get an endorsement so far. He is running in House District 8.
“The real reason we don’t have legal weed rests with the liquor commission and police union,” said Costable. “Look at what happens to alcohol sales post legalization (spoiler: they drop). And on that note, I will not support any bill that gives the Liquor Commission monopoly on weed as well.”
Democrat Peaco Todd of Tamworth, running in House District 3, was endorsed as well.
“I’ve been a longtime supporter of medical marijuana and am firmly in favor of legalizing cannabis for recreational and other therapeutic uses as long as it’s carefully regulated,” said Todd, calling New Hampshire an island in a sea of legalization.
“Failing to regulate it will not prevent its use. What we will be preventing, if legalized and regulated, is, among other things, marijuana that’s been contaminated with other substances, one of the most deadly being fentanyl,” Todd said.
“Legalized cannabis also has the potential to be a revenue producer for the state. Of course, marijuana, like alcohol, has the potential for abuse and regulations would need to address that issue. But overall, I think legalized cannabis is a win-win for N.H.”
According to the secretary of state’s office, the only recognized parties in N.H. are Democrats and Republicans. To be recognized a candidate for governor or senator must have received at least 4 percent of the total vote in the preceding General Election.