MARIJUANA LEGALIZATION

My Speech Opposing Marijuana Legalization

I rise today to speak against the OTP as amended motion on HB 481. The bill in front of us does not include revenue estimates for the state of New Hampshire. While the commission did consider estimates of between $17 and $31 million, they’ve been eliminated from this amended bill. That alone should be a concern of this body. Our decisions should be based on the best evidence and research and in this case, we simply don’t have it. I believe to support this without at least a range of revenue numbers is not fiscally responsible.

For now, let’s assume the revenues are “good.” I moved here nearly 20 years ago from a state that decided after much debate to allow another controversial revenue source, casino gambling.
Initially, the revenue was a boon, but tinkering with the law made it difficult for some operators to make all the money they wanted, so some left.

Initially, new revenues were used for education, but soon lawmakers began diverting revenue to balance the state budget. Eventually the wild fluctuations in gambling revenue from year to year gave the legislature fits in setting budgets and the officials soon realized they were in part, working for out of state interests.

Finally, the state couldn’t afford to back out of the casino gambling arrangements and ended up with more forms of gambling than was found in Las Vegas. The market became saturated, plans were scrapped to build more casinos and two existing ones eventually wanted greater tax breaks.

Today we are being asked to vote on an untested and controversial revenue source, one that we probably won’t be able to undo once it starts and the revenue models will either have no material effect or force NH to grapple with how to manage not only the business itself, but its effect on our ability to project an accurate and meaningful state budget every two years.

Members of the House, I believe we are making a worrisome fiscal decision, and one that future legislatures will have to live with.