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Marijuana Critics Seek to Derail Legalization Bill As N.H. Senate Takes It Up

Dan Tuohy / NHPR


Critics of marijuana are trying to derail a legalization bill in New Hampshire by questioning the costs of legalization in other states.


They spoke out today as a Senate committee held its first hearing on the bill. Sen. Bob Giuda, a Warren Republican, rallied opponents before promising he would lead the opposition in the Senate.


Doctor Catherine Antley, who was a co-author of the Vermont Medical Society’s resolutions against legalization, warned of public health impacts of recreational marijuana.


"Unlike toasters, or buildings, or building roads, or selling cars, the industry of addiction depends on creating a widget called an addict," she said during a news conference. "Someone with a substance abuse disorder. This person consumes 80 percent of the product.”


The New Hampshire House voted earlier this month to pass the bill, which could raise as much as $32 million a year. It calls for legalizing up to 1 ounce of marijuana for adults, and establishing a commercial market in which marijuana would be taxed at 5 % at the wholesale/cultivation level and 9 % at the retail level.


Its chances look good in the Senate after Democrats put support for legalization into their party platform. Democrats have a 14-10 majority in the Senate. 


Today's opposition received the backing of state GOP Chairman Stephen Stepanek. Stepanek said Gov. Chris Sununu was right to oppose the legislation, because marijuana remains against federal law.


State Rep. Renny Cushing, the prime sponsor of the bill, offered a different take during his testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee. He said the bill puts New Hampshire in line with neighboring states.

"Prohibition has been a failure," he said.

Credit Dan Tuohy / NHPR
Bishop Jethro James, of the Paradise Baptist Church in Newark, N.J., joined an anti-marijuana news conference April 23, 2019 in Concord.

Giuda, who has supported medical marijuana, repeatedly called the legalization bill "naive" in his testimony. He questioned the health effects on Granite Staters, young and old alike. And he said the black market is thriving in states that have legalized marijuana for adult use.


Bishop Jethro James, from the Paradise Baptist Church in New Jersey, was one of the critics joining Giuda at the State House. He has worked against legalization in New Jersey. He said New Hampshire should be wary of the cannabis industry.


"I tell you here in New Hampshire you have a chance to change the lives of your children and your grandchildren," he said. "What about the babies?"

The bill would prohibit consumption in public and in vehicles, and provide protections for landlords and property owners. Cushing said it includes regulations, testing, labeling, and public education, with a system that pays for itself.  He added that there would not be a "cannibalization" of New Hampshire's existing medical marijuana program.

Dan is a long-time New Hampshire journalist who has written for outlets including Foster's Daily Democrat, The Citizen of Laconia, The Boston Globe, and The Eagle-Tribune. He comes to NHPR from the New Hampshire Union Leader, where he reported on state, local, and national politics.

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