Manchester, Portsmouth and Nashua are suffering — and so are most other towns and cities across the state. The opioid crisis has caused a cruel tear in the social fabric of these communities. At this very moment, as our police, first responders, recovery and mental health providers are turning the tide, our legislators are debating whether to introduce another intoxicant into our neighborhoods. Now is not the time. If you want to know what New Hampshire will look like in five years if marijuana is legalized, look to Colorado.
Our state senators should consider these questions before casting votes this week on HB 481:
Are we prepared for dozens of retail pot shops from Elm to Ash Street and beyond? Denver has more than 700 retail pot shops, more than Starbucks and McDonald’s combined, located mostly in poor and minority neighborhoods.
Are we prepared for a spike in emergency room admissions at Elliot Hospital? Denver’s University of Colorado Hospital alone has seen a 200% increase in hospitalizations since legalization, many with psychotic episodes.
Are we prepared for clouds of marijuana smoke wafting through Manchester’s middle and high schools? In Pueblo, one out of three seniors currently use marijuana. Colorado past month marijuana use for ages 12 and older is 85 percent higher than the national average.
Are we prepared for impaired drivers crossing the centerline on Manchester city streets? Colorado traffic deaths involving drivers testing positive for marijuana have doubled since legalization. This equates to one person killed every 2-½ days.
Are we prepared for the impact on Manchester’s vibrant sports and convention businesses? Denver’s downtown environment is the number one complaint from event planners. Nearly 50 percent cite homeless, panhandling, safety, cleanliness and public marijuana consumption as the reason convention-goers don’t return. Former Mayor Wellington Webb regrets his vote to legalize.
Are we prepared to pay for the societal harms through higher taxes? Colorado marijuana tax revenue is nine tenths of one percent (0.9%) of the 2017 state budget. Workplace losses, mental health, public safety, crime and regulatory costs have greatly outpaced revenues raised. A self-inflicted wound is not responsible public policy.
Are we prepared to take away local control by statutorily opting towns and cities in? Legalization in 10 states, including Colorado, was accomplished by ballot initiatives. Then 72 percent of the 243 Colorado municipalities scrambled to ban retail pot shops. Legalization is not as popular as some polls would suggest. Legalization is not inevitable.
Are we prepared to contribute to the social injustice associated with legalization? A coalition of African-American lawmakers, pastors and civic leaders — citing harm to their communities — pressured the New Jersey legislature last April to cancel their vote on legalization. The New York state legislature took notice and shuddered.
Are we prepared to worsen the opioid epidemic? Most addicts are poly-drug users with up to five drugs in their system at any time, including marijuana. And most will admit marijuana served as a gateway. Opioid deaths in Colorado have increased by a sobering 33 percent since legalization.
Are we prepared to exacerbate the mental health challenges already taxing our state? Last month’s study published in the respected Lancet Psychiatry journal is the most recent contribution to the growing body of scientific evidence linking daily marijuana use to psychosis and schizophrenia. Why would we deny the science?
And finally, are we prepared to cope with a robust black market? DEA reports Colorado has become a black-market marijuana source production state and international money laundering center for Mexican and Colombian drug cartels. Thousands of illegal residential grow sites crisscross the state, many involved in human trafficking and prostitution.
Citizens in our cities and towns, children in our neighborhoods and schools expect honest answers to these questions. This bill, if passed, has the potential to change our state in ways we can’t imagine. There will be no turning back. Voting NO on HB 481 is a vote to keep our state a safe, healthy, productive oasis attracting families and workers from around the region to help sustain our New Hampshire Advantage.