The following editorial was published in the The (Portsmouth) Herald, Jan. 12, 2017:
You’ve got to wonder what members of the New Hampshire House were smoking on Tuesday when they voted 207 to 139 in favor of marijuana cultivation, possession and edibles for recreational use.
Last year, this same House voted to create a marijuana study commission to look into the many complicated issues surrounding recreational marijuana use and sales and that hard-working commission will not release its final report until November. In fact, the House Criminal Justice Committee, which held hearings on the bill, deemed it inexpedient to legislate, to give the study commission time to finish its work.
The vote is especially misguided in light of the early testimony the study commission received from experts from Colorado and Oregon, two legal recreational marijuana states, stating their biggest challenges come from edibles and home cultivation. Washington state experts are up next.
According to Rep. Patrick Abrami, R-Stratham, who chairs the marijuana study commission, representatives from Colorado and Oregon report edibles are a problem because it is difficult to regulate the strength of the THC in the cookies, brownies and candy, that there has been a spike in overdoses among children accidentally consuming spiked goodies and among adults who don’t realize they are consuming too much of the intoxicating chemicals. In fact, he said, Colorado has launched an education program and imposed more stringent labeling requirements to deal with these problems.
Homegrown plants, when cultivated by someone who knows what they’re doing, can produce a lot of marijuana. Because homegrown is untaxed, citizens in Colorado and Washington have been selling their excess, creating a black market and undercutting taxable weed sales.
Speaking of taxes, another bizarre House decision was sending the bill to the Ways and Means Committee, which reviews revenue related legislation, since all taxing authority was removed from the bill. The only good thing here is that Abrami is also vice chairman of Ways and Means so he can bring his knowledge of the issue to those deliberations.
The position of this paper has long been in favor of decriminalization, which passed this year, but to wait and see on recreational marijuana. All New Hampshire needs to do is look across its borders into Maine and Massachusetts and see the chaos caused by lack of foresight and preparation.
The good news is that Gov. Chris Sununu has already said he’s not going to support this bill, so it’s dead on arrival if it even makes it to his desk. This will give the marijuana study commission time to finish its important probe into what Abrami calls “the good, the bad and the ugly” of legal recreational marijuana.
So far the commission has heard from Oregon and Colorado but it plans to speak with representatives from every state where it has been legalized to explore the many complicated issues created by legalized recreational marijuana. These issues, according to Abrami, include addiction, crime, driving while impaired (other states say they wish they had a better handle on this), medical issues including the impact on brain function on the young, cultivation and potency control, manufacturing and distribution (if edibles are sold in the state who will oversee their safety?), weights and measures, banking, taxation, impact on state brand, general social and family impacts, location of marijuana stores and much, much more.
There is also the recent major uncertainty created by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who indicated the federal government will no longer look the other way when federal drug laws are violated in states that have legalized marijuana.
Abrami notes that while poll numbers are strongly in favor of legal marijuana, when it comes time for cities and towns to allow marijuana sales within their borders, many just say no. All the nearby towns in southern York County, Maine, have imposed sales moratoriums as they wrestle with regulations.
The commission wants to hear the thoughts and concerns from all the state’s departments and that is information the Legislature needs before it can make intelligent decisions.
We’re glad the marijuana study commission plans to continue to do its research and report out in November. We strongly recommend the Legislature not do anything until it has the insights this group’s work will provide.
Via Associated Press. Information from the seacoastonline.com