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Dave Solomon's State House Dome: Dems agree on pot plank

State House Bureau

June 02. 2018 5:19PM

It looks like the Democratic Party will be "all in" for full legalization of marijuana for recreational use by adults.

After a week of "discussions" as they were called by Rep. Renny Cushing, D-Hampton, the legalization advocates were able to prevail over party members who favored a more cautious route for the party platform.

When Democrats convene for their state convention on June 23 in Stratham, legalization will be a part of the platform delegates will vote on, according to Cushing, who said he got that news on Friday morning from chair of the platform committee, Concord attorney Cinde Warmington.

That news was a 180-degree reversal from the position of the platform committee earlier in the week, when Cushing and five other like-minded Democrats were rebuffed.

In a letter to the committee on Tuesday, Cushing was joined by Rep. Mindi Messmer of Rye; attorney Paul Twomey of Chichester; former Sen. Burt Cohen of New Castle; Rep. Amelia Keane of Nashua and Lucas Meyer of Manchester, president of N.H. Young Democrats, in urging pro-legalization language.

The draft of the platform as it stood on Tuesday contained what might be called a "bob and weave" position on the issue, stating, "We believe that strategic policies on regulation, taxation, and enforcement are critical prior to any action to fully legalize marijuana."

Cushing's Gang of Six proposed changing that to a straightforward endorsement of legalization, along these lines: We believe that New Hampshire should treat cannabis in a manner similar to alcohol, and that cannabis (marijuana) should be legalized, taxed and regulated.

"The platform committee on Tuesday night decided to reject that, and not put it on the ballot," said Cushing.

On Friday, Cushing was told the committee is going to move forward with a plank that removes the reference to alcohol and simply states that the Democratic Party in New Hampshire supports the legalization, taxation and regulation of marijuana.

So what happened between Tuesday and Friday?

A lot of discussion, apparently.

"There were a lot of rank and file Democrats who weighed in who were clearly supportive of a change in policy," said Cushing.

There was also a concern that the Gang of Six and their supporters would start a floor fight by raising the issue as a platform amendment at the convention.

Democrats delighted in criticizing Republicans for parliamentary maneuvers that precluded a floor fight over same sex marriage at their recent state convention, and didn't want to find themselves in a similar position over pot legalization.

Also adding to the pro-legalization momentum was the fact that the party's two candidates for governor, former Sen. Molly Kelly and former Portsmouth Mayor Steve Marchand, are pro-legalization, as is the party chair, Ray Buckley.

In a statement issued Thursday, Buckley said he would introduce a pro-legalization amendment from the convention floor if one was not included in the platform.

"I support including language in the New Hampshire Democratic Party platform to legalize, tax, and regulate marijuana in the state of New Hampshire," Buckley stated. "I am willing to co-sponsor an amendment to that end, and I would vote for a platform that includes such language at our state convention on June 23rd. With marijuana having been legalized in every bordering state, it makes sense for New Hampshire, the Live Free or Die state, to extend this right to our citizens as well."

By Friday morning, the pro-legalization plank was on its way to formal approval.

Naming names

Republican representatives who voted against Right-to-Work legislation last year are going to find themselves the target of an "accountability campaign" by the conservative policy group Americans for Prosperity.

AFP-NH mail pieces will land in a variety of districts across the state starting this week, highlighting the representative's record on Right-to-Work.

The example provided by AFP was aimed at Republican Rep. Karel Crawford of Center Harbor. The front side of the mailer asks, "Why is your representative restricting worker freedoms?"

The back side of the mailer has Crawford's picture with the headline, "Rep. Karel Crawford voted against giving Granite State workers our right to work."

Watch for future iterations of the same campaign for Republican reps who voted against the school choice bill, SB 193.

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