By Roger Tilton
Now that the New Hampshire State Senate Judiciary Committee has “re-referred” the legal reefer bill to next year’s session, we wonder if Reefer Madness prohibitionists will continue to prevail until the Great Bay Oyster Reef Restoration is complete. What? That would be until Halloween in 2021, more than two years away.
The five-year reef-refresh began in 2016. You know what else happened in 2016? (Besides that.) Neighboring states Maine and Massachusetts legalized cannabis for adults 21 and older to enjoy. Last month, the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission reported sales statewide reached the $100 million mark since retail stores opened last November. And at a 17% state-tax rate, and a 3% local tax, that cannabis revenue starts to add up. Legalization proponents often cite tax revenue as a main argument to end the war on marijuana. I’ll add another main argument: Washington, Colorado, Oregon, Alaska, Nevada, California. In the laboratory of the states, marijuana is a winner.
Here in New Hampshire, the state is taking a turn for the worse. Remember that slogan, the one plagiarized from a letter that Revolutionary War hero General John Stark wrote in 1809: “Live free or die. Death is not the greatest of evils.” The state adopted “Live Free or Die” as the state motto in 1945. Then in 2018, the State Division of Travel and Tourism shortened it to “Live Free.” Check out their website.
New Hampshire likes to boast about being “first in the nation (#fitn).” Maybe for presidential primary elections, but not much else, especially cannabis. And it would seem such a natural fit: ‘first in the nation’ and ‘live free or die’ cries out for legal weed! Five years ago, I ran for state senate on a platform of “let’s be third-in-the-nation!” Voters and established politicians were not quite ready to be third. The state, however, has made some progress, allowing medical sales in 2013 and decriminalizing in 2017.
New Hampshire’s problem with weed comes down to this: old people don’t like it. Polls in New Hampshire show residents approve adult-use legalization by a 3-1 margin. However, without citizens’ initiative laws allowing us to make or change laws through ballot measures, which is how most adult-use legal states became that way, New Hampshire doesn’t stand a chance—for a while. The legislature skews older, and old people (born prior to 1954) are the only segment of our population still opposed to legalization. Then there’s the governor problem. That would be Chris Sununu, born in 1974, and clueless. Had the state senate not “re-referred” the reefer-legalization bill, and had it made it out of the full senate—the state house already passed it—our boy-gov Chris vowed to veto. Why? I’d call it “Orange Syndrome.” Chris, who has visited the White House and the Orange One there at least ten times (at last count). And like the Orange One, our boy-gov is resistant to learning and to science.
As a West Coast transplant to NH in 2003, I have watched for 16 years now how patrician and provincial most politicians act. Slow to change, oblivious to what’s going on in this country, especially “out west.” Yes, progress moves from West to East in this country. New Hampshire will get there—eventually—probably on the coattails of the removal of cannabis as a Schedule One Narcotic from the Controlled Substances Act. And it would be so New Hampshire: not first in the nation, not live free or die, just follow the federal government—like the minimum wage. Yes, New Hampshire does not have a minimum wage law, meaning New Hampshire employers would pay as little as they could, like a-dollar-an-hour, but they have to pay at leas $7.25 an hour, thanks to the federal minimum wage laws. And that pretty much sums up New Hampshire.
And that Great Bay Oyster Reef restoration that I noted earlier, The Nature Conservancy is spearheading the effort, not the state of New Hampshire.