Some interest has been expressed in New Hampshire House Bill 492, which would pass the legalization of marijuana in the state of N.H.
Colorado and Washington legalized marijuana through a referendum, or statewide vote. New Hampshire does not allow statewide referendums.
According to the Live Free or Die Alliance, “Opponents believe that since N.H. has one of the largest legislatures in the world, citizens have ample access to their elected representatives and do not need the power of a referendum.”
A marijuana legalization advocacy group, Marijuana Policy Project, wrote the bill.
Representative Steve Vaillancourt sponsored the legalization bill and stated any bill that has taxes included in it has to go through The House Committee on Ways and Means after passing through the house.
Then, the bill will remain there until it moves to the senate. After passing the senate, the bill will go to the governor.
If the governor does not veto it, the bill will becomes a law, Vaillancourt explained.
According to Vaillancourt, the Ways and Means committee will look at the bill and approve or disapprove it sometime in mid-March.
However, he said, no matter what the Ways and Means committee decides, the bill goes to vote again in the house. Vaillancourt said the Ways and Means committee is full of “Reefer Madness” types who will not pass it. He said if they disapprove, the bill still has a solid chance to pass through the house again.
Vaillancourt indicated the senate will probably say “no.” He said the governor has stated she plans to veto the bill.
“I never expected this to pass the house to begin with,” Vaillancourt said, “In fact, we are a government of people. I think the elected officials should listen to what the people have to say, and they [the people] want this.”
Vaillancourt stated, “Even though we are not likely to legalize [marijuana] this year, we may decriminalize [it],”
Vaillancourt added he is absolutely convinced that a proposed decriminalization bill will pass the house by a two-to-one margin. Vaillancourt shared he is more optimistic than ever the senate will pass the decriminalization bill. Vaillancourt said, “The Criminal Justice Committee recommended killing the bill, and we overturned it.”
He continued, “For several years in a row, the New Hampshire House has passed decriminalization bills. They have died in the senate each year….New opinion polls show tremendous support for the bill….I have confidence in these polls.”
In a New Futures op-ed on legalization featured in the Concord Monitor, Tricia Lucas, advocacy director of New Futures, wrote, “As the New Hampshire Legislature prepares, yet again, to consider legislation to legalize, regulate and tax marijuana, I am reminded of the quote from H. L. Mencken, ‘For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple and wrong.’ Although the marijuana legalization issue can be easily stated for an opinion poll, in reality the issue is complex, with significant implications for the public health and safety of New Hampshire residents and our economy. It is time to move beyond rhetoric, simplistic responses, and legislation by poll to a serious policy discussion, supported by current research and data.”
According to Joe Gallagher, communications coordinator for New Futures, “New Futures is serving as the anchor organization to Project SAM [Smart Approaches to Marijuana] in New Hampshire.”
The New Futures information states the addiction rate is one in every 11 adults who have tried marijuana, and one in six adolescents who have tried the substance, according to the article in the Concord Monitor.
Tricia Lucas also stated, “In 2011, 28.4 percent of high school students reported using marijuana one or more times in the last 30 days. Because legalization will increase access and convey the message that use is without risk, youth use will increase.”
Keene State College’s Executive Summary for the fall 2012 semester showed 25 percent of KSC students have used marijuana within the last 30 days.
Tiffany Mathews, coordinator of wellness education at KSC, said marijuana is seen by some as a safe and benign substance instead of being an addictive drug that has the potential to impede success and hinder people from fulfilling their potential.
She said it is highly doubtful that the Center for Health and Wellness at KSC will dispense medical marijuana in the future for those reasons.
“While it may lack apparent ill effects, it alters cognitive and social development and can lead to long-term effects on life and well-being,” Mathews said.
Mathews also included some information from the NIDA (National Institute on Drug Abuse) which stated, “With recreational marijuana use recently legalized in two states and increasing public pressure to ease restrictions on the drug nationwide, the availability of this drug is bound to increase. Only time will tell how these factors influence teens’ perception of marijuana’s safety or lack thereof. The key may be to do a better job of educating America’s youth about the value of their brains, and how utterly important it is not to engage in behaviors that could permanently compromise that organ during a very vulnerable period in its development.”
Mathews indicated she does not think the legalization of marijuana would benefit the college. She said she has had people come in and talk about using marijuana, and they talk about how it decreases their motivation to do the things they used to do.
She said they lose motivation to follow through on things and that even with the use of marijuana overtime it becomes a habitual thing for students and they completely change their goals altogether.
Mathews suggested that, “Marijuana isn’t usually connected to violent behavior, but if you did a little digging, possibly ask students who are leaving, transferring or dropping out…Ask them if marijuana may have had a role in that? Research does show as they become habitual users, even though they may seem laid back and relaxed, it’s often a disconnect with their goals that they once had coming in.”
Aside from how students might be affected by this bill passing, staff and faculty have expressed possible change as well.
Director of Campus Safety, Amanda Guthorn, said laws change periodically, so they have to adjust their procedures and protocols to reflect that.
Guthorn noted, “We stay on top of what’s happening in the law, and it would just change the manner in which we respond. So right now if we get a call for a potential marijuana circumstance, because it’s an illegal drug, we call Keene police, because we can’t legally possess the drug ourselves.”
Guthorn continued, “That’s the protocol we’ve worked with Keene police on. So if it’s no longer illegal, for over 21 [year-olds], that eliminates that issue. But if it’s still illegal for under 21, we still need the police. So there are a lot of nuances to it. It’s not just a ‘yes it’s legal,’ ‘no it’s not,’ type of thing.”
Guthorn said even if it became legal, the majority of the campus is under the age of 21, therefore Campus Safety would still face a number of issues.
Campus Safety already receives many calls about potential marijuana use on campus, according to Guthorn, who said if the drug became legal students might start experimenting more with it.
Guthorn said she does not think it will necessarily increase the number of people who use marijuana for whatever purposes, recreational or medical.
“Whatever policies we’re going to enforce, we have to create them before they go into effect…I think it [laws changing] always presents challenges. Are professors going to be able to tell if kids are coming to class high? I would guarantee kids are coming to class high now,” Guthorn predicted.
In addition to the changes New Hampshire faces, representative Vaillancourt said, “We are at the cutting edge of historical change. We’ve come a long way, certainly in my lifetime, and we are making progress that is good for all society.”
Bethany Ricciardi can be contacted at email@example.com