Opinion: Business of selling marijuana is bad for NH


Published: 08-27-2023 7:00 AM

Celeste Clark is executive director of the Raymond Coalition for Youth.

Our governor has officially signed HB 611 to create a commission to study state-controlled sales of drugs. Marijuana and THC products to be exact.

To quote Governor Chris Sununu, “New Hampshire has an opportunity to safely regulate the sale of marijuana with a model few others can provide.” Does he realize that once he legalizes weed in New Hampshire that is it, there is no going back?

As we know, policies change. Even if he gets a “model policy,” when he leaves office in December of 2024, the bill can be changed and safeguards as written may be lost. Then our new governor will have to deal with, and hopefully agree with, the policy as it is written. We will also have a new legislative body of representatives and senators who may be motivated to introduce new legislation with less restrictions.

States throughout the country that have legalized weed are a mess for countless reasons and we certainly don’t want that in New Hampshire. So, compared to that, a state-run marijuana industry may sound like a great idea but let’s be clear, once the genie is out of the bottle there will be more marijuana on our roads, child endangerment will increase, as will addiction (Lessons Learned from State Marijuana Legalization, SAM)

Just because it sounds like a good idea doesn’t mean it is. New Hampshire, like several other states, continues to stop legalization from coming into our state because we have people who care. People who have spoken up because they have witnessed the damage of this drug to children, families and loved ones, economies, cultures and community safety.

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The simple fact is that there is no safe way to increase access to a drug. When you increase access you increase use. New Hampshire is already one of the highest-ranking states in the country for substance misuse. Do we want the distinction of being number one?

The New Hampshire prevention community provided hours of testimony from people who have seen and lived with the collateral damage of increased access to this harmful substance. Unfortunately, Gov. Sununu was not there to listen. If he heard the doctors, law enforcement professionals, parents, youth, substance misuse counselors and countless others, who took the time to speak about why this is such a bad idea, maybe he would have accepted the results of HB 639. Maybe he would have respected that New Hampshire does not want this in our state and communities.

What is even more difficult to wrap my mind around is that the very people whose job it is to prevent this from happening, substance misuse prevention professionals, are being told by the governor to make it happen. Their task is to come up with a model policy that has all of the safeguards in it. But the simple fact is that there is no perfect policy or safeguards when you are increasing access to a harmful, addictive drug.

How many times have we heard Governor Sununu say that now is not the time to legalize when people are dying and overdosing on drugs? Countless times. It was a very responsible position. What happened? AMR medics report historical overdose numbers in our two key cities, Manchester and Nashua. The highest since August of 2018. So as citizens of New Hampshire are we to believe that if we have a state-run model for marijuana outlets these numbers will go down?

Can the governor tell us how a state-run model that sells marijuana and edibles will limit access? The whole idea of selling a product is profit and this will most definitely increase access.

At a hearing this past spring in Concord, discussing HB 639, the New Hampshire Liquor commissioner gave testimony that he has conducted studies of what is being sold in our neighboring states, how much it is being sold for, and his plan for how the Granite State will undercut their prices and sell in much higher quantities. Does this sound like limiting access? Does this sound like we would be protecting children and families?

New Hampshire is known for its liquor sales and its significant profits. Do we really want to be known for being the marijuana market leader as well? Do we want to be a tourist destination for those looking to purchase weed and its many THC products? Do we want the people consuming these products driving on our roads? Will this action increase business development opportunities? Is this the New Hampshire we envision for our children and future generations?

There are so many questions but the big one is this. Is this the legacy our Gov. Sununu wants to leave behind after eight successful years in the corner office?

Please reach out to the governor, or Senator Jeb Bradley, with your thoughts on the state being in the business of selling marijuana.