MARIJUANA LEGALIZATION

My Speech Opposin...

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.

MARIJUANA LEGALIZATION

Legalization of M...

I voted against this bill that fully legalizes and commercializes cannabis in New Hampshire. As seen from states that have commercialized marijuana, this industry targets youth. We heard extensive testimony on the harmful effects to developing brains and the increased risk of substance use disorder. New Hampshire already has a robust therapeutic marijuana program now serving over 7000 individuals.

Furthermore, the state already decriminalized marijuana in 2017 for possession of smaller amounts. HB 481 creates a commercialized marijuana industry in New Hampshire,
opening the door to all components of the marijuana business with no limits on the types of products sold or the potency of those products.

The bill also allows vaping marijuana in public places at a time when vaping has become an epidemic in our schools and communities. The bill takes away local control by automatically opting municipalities in, contrary to the recommendations of the legislative study commission’s report. Lastly, HB 481 offers no protections for employers and small businesses seeking to enact their own policies prohibiting the use, consumption, and possession of marijuana in the workplace. In the past, I voted to decriminalize a small amount, but stopped when it came to legalization. I'm in favor of medical marijuana and understand it can be used for medical treatment. described.

There are several reasons why I did not support this bill. The first is that the federal government considers cannabis an illegal substance and makes it nearly impossible for anyone to get a legitimate bank loan to start a business. I had personal (snail mail) correspondence and conversations with many people in Greenland who asked me to vote against it. I also serve on the boards of two non-profit human service agencies and members of those boards encouraged me to vote against this bill.

We know the Governor plans on vetoing the bill if it gets to his desk and we currently don't have enough votes to override a veto in the House. However, if the Senate passes the bill some folks in the House may change their vote and override a veto.

I will be visiting this bill again when it comes to the House Ways and Means Committee on which I serve. We will study how much in taxes this could raise for NH and the Committee will make a recommendation on whether to support its passage based on revenue potential and the fact that it's nearly impossible for a startup business to get a legitimate bank loan. This will be an important test for HB 481.

I do believe that someday the state will legalize marijuana. I understand this. My vote was based upon the information I was receiving and my belief that our current Governor will veto HB 481 if it gets passed the Ways and Means Committee and the Senate.