Gov. Maggie Hassan has vowed to veto legislation legalizing marijuana if it reaches her desk, but she admitted this week to first-hand knowledge of the substance.
During an interview on WMUR-TV’s Sunday morning “Close-Up” program, the governor was asked by host Josh McElveen whether she had ever tried marijuana.
“I was in college. I tried it,” she said. “But things have changed. The drug is much more potent now.”
Hassan, 55, attended college in the late 1970s and early 1980s. She graduated from Brown University and then attended Northeastern University School of Law.
Last year, the governor signed a measure that allows medical use of marijuana. At the time, Hassan said she was signing the legislation because she was satisfied that medical use would be “appropriately regulated and dispensed.”
Hassan supported the medical marijuana bill only after the Legislature stripped out a provision that would have allowed home cultivation for those with a doctor’s permission to use marijuana for medical purposes.
A new bill this year, to legalize and tax the sale of marijuana to people 21 years of age and older for personal use, received initial approval from the state House of Representatives on Jan. 15. It is currently before the House Ways and Means Committee for review of its tax implications. The bill would tax wholesale sales at $30 per ounce and retail sales at a rate of 15 percent of the sales price.
Supporters have predicted that the “pot tax” would earn the state $26 million to $39 million per year, but opponents have criticized the methodology used to develop that projection.
Hassan, in her State of the State address last Thursday, said, “Legalizing marijuana won’t help us address our substance use challenge. Experience and data suggests it will do just the opposite.”
She noted that marijuana remains illegal under federal law and, “Our state already has one of the highest rates of marijuana use by young people in the country, and marijuana has real, negative health effects, especially on adolescents.”
The governor said, “The evidence suggests that legalizing marijuana will increase the number of minors who use this drug, will make our workforce less productive and our roads less safe, and will undermine public health.”
But Hassan said state officials should “thoughtfully consider our current policies toward substance abuse to refocus on treatment.
“I do not believe that a young person with a substance problem should end up in jail, prison or with a criminal record on their first offense,” she said, calling for a “comprehensive review of our criminal code and our sentences to consider alternative options that will focus on treatment first.”
The governor’s spokesman, Marc Goldberg, said Monday that Hassan “did try (marijuana) in college and only a couple of times. Her focus as governor is on addressing New Hampshire’s substance abuse challenges, especially among our young people, by increasing access to treatment through efforts like accepting federal funds to expand health care coverage to over 50,000 hard-working Granite Staters.”
Goldberg continued, “Legalizing marijuana, which remains illegal under federal law, will not help us address our substance abuse challenges, and the governor would veto such a measure.”
Over the past few decades, a number of political figures have admitted to use of marijuana.
The list includes President Barack Obama, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, Secretary of State John Kerry and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.
Former President Bill Clinton admitted during the 1992 presidential campaign that he tried marijuana but “didn’t inhale.” Fourteen years later, in 2006, presidential candidate Obama admitted that he tried it and said he did inhale because “that was the point.”