Legalizing Recreational Marijuana: We can do better (HB 481)

Testimony delivered to House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee by Neil Hubacker, Director of Strategic Alliances, Cornerstone Policy Research. For more information, contact cornerstone@nhcornerstone.org.

Please vote ITL on HB 481, relative to the legalization and regulation of cannabis:

I am Neil Hubacker, Director of Strategic Alliances for Cornerstone Policy Research. Cornerstone is dedicated to a New Hampshire where God is honored, religious freedom flourishes, families thrive, and life is cherished.

Cornerstone is opposed to HB 481 because of the myriad of data coming from states that have already opted to legalize recreational marijuana; from a cost-benefit analysis, both economically and socially, legalization of cannabis puts the states’ citizens in the loss column. With respect to the following seven areas, Cornerstone believes that we can do better for NH’s citizens’ than to legalize marijuana as per HB 481’s guidelines:

  1. We can do better…Economically:
    1. A recent, compelling, and comprehensive study by the Centennial Institute in Colorado indicated that for every $1.00 gained in tax revenue from the cultivation and retail sales of pot, $4.30 was being spent to mitigate its affects; see http://www.ccu.edu/centennial/policy-briefs/marijuana-costs/
    2. While the effect on property values is still being studied, we do know that:
      1. Over half of Massachusetts municipalities and over 2/3 of Colorado municipalities have opted to prohibit retail shops or place a moratorium on put shops until further study; see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cannabis_in_Massachusetts and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colorado_Amendment_64
      2. Expensive lawsuits can arise from cultivation and retail establishments’ neighbors due to concerns of foul odors and traffic: see https://www.denverpost.com/2018/11/01/colorado-pot-grower-property-value-lawsuit/
  • New Hampshire’s economic engine is its property values; imagine a NH five to ten years from now, where surrounded by states that have legalized cannabis, NH’s property values soar because of the absence of retail shops!
  1. We can better…for our Educators and Students
    1. In Colorado: retail pot shops in a town, despite a law’s best efforts, result in more youth accessing marijuana products, which results in poor student performance and the criminalization of youth as teachers are forced to call on law enforcement: https://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2012/02/06/21enc_marijuana.h31.html
    2. In Washington: Past-month usage among 8th– and 10th– graders rose after legalization: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/abcs-child-psychiatry/201704/does-legalized-marijuana-result-in-more-teen-use
  2. We can better…for our Government and its Citizens
    1. In Massachusetts, the Cannabis Control Commission is an incredibly bloated state agency, with the Commissioner earning more than the state’s governor: https://www.masslive.com/news/index.ssf/2017/08/marijuana_in_massachusetts_her_2.html
    2. The CCC as it operates in MA and as proposed by HB481 (pp.6-9) is truly in a “corporate capture” scenario; in other words, the CCC does not truly exist to protect and serve citizens and consumers, but rather to serve the interests of the businesses who stand to profit
  3. We can do better…for our Health Care Professionals
    1. In Colorado: where retail pot shops open, nearby adolescent ER visits spike relative to acute mental health visits and complaints of vomiting (after ingesting high-THC content edibles): https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-marijuana-kids/marijuana-related-er-visits-by-colorado-teens-on-the-rise-idUSKBN1HO38A
    2. Also in Colorado: a “whopping” increase of marijuana-related ER visits post-legalization: https://psmag.com/news/marijuana-episodes-are-on-the-rise-in-colorado-but-not-for-the-reason-you-think
  4. We can better…for our Public Safety/Law Enforcement Officials
    1. A former state senator from Colorado indicated to me in a personal conversation the biggest unintended consequence of legalization: the burgeoning black market for both marijuana and opiates. Drug “mules” now bring refined pot from Colorado to Mexico; and in order to make the return trip profitable, they come back from Mexico with substandard opiates to sell in Colorado
    2. In Colorado, there has been a rise in traffic-related fatalities involving THC-positive drivers: https://psmag.com/news/marijuana-episodes-are-on-the-rise-in-colorado-but-not-for-the-reason-you-think
    3. But law enforcement has no way to field-test for THC: https://www.newburyportnews.com/news/local_news/retail-marijuana-options-considered-in-newburyport/article_abaf35ea-6138-595d-8085-5ea0817d22ff.html
  5. We can do better…for the Mental Health & Safety of our Citizens
    1. Links between long-term marijuana use, mental illness, and violence are becoming clearer; why would we throw this fuel onto the fire of a well-documented opiate crisis in NH? See:  https://imprimis.hillsdale.edu/marijuana-mental-illness-violence/?appeal_code=MK119EM1&sc=MK119EM1&utm_campaign=
  6. We can do better…for those seeking Social Justice
    1. As HB 481 indicates in the staffing of its Cannabis Control Commission and its Board (pp. 6-9), social justice is a concern for the sponsors; and if we are to take the Massachusetts CCC as an example, we understand that retail pot shops are to be economic equalizers for disadvantaged, minority, or women entrepreneurs. While this may be true, we must ask a question regarding the scenario playing out in Massachusetts: is it that well-to-do communities are able to prohibit retail pot shops because they have the resources to push back on the ill-advised state statutes?  And in a few years, which municipalities will be paying the highest economic and social costs of having retail pot shops within their borders?  Is that the look of social justice? 

While HB 481 presumably seeks to alleviate law enforcement & justice apparatuses from policing minor drug infractions and to harvest financial benefits in the process, data from across the country indicate that the costs—both economically and socially—far outweigh the benefits.  We cannot support HB 481.