NEW HAMPSHIRE: Four years ago, I ran for state senate in the “First in the Nation Primary” state of New Hampshire on the theme: “Let’s be ‘Third in the Nation’ to legalize adult-use cannabis.” I lost. And so did New Hampshire. Since that election, every jurisdiction neighboring New Hampshire (save the Atlantic Ocean) has legalized adult-use cannabis: Maine, Vermont, Massachusetts and Canada.
My slogan as I seek election again this cycle: “Let’s be tenth!” Not really. New Hampshire’s legislative branch, called the General Court, consists of a 400-member House of Representatives and 24 Senators. All 424 of them get paid $200 per biennium, or a hundred bucks a year. Who can afford to run for office in New Hampshire? Certainly not the working class: maybe, retired people? Wealthy people? People who control their own schedule? And what do those three groups have in common? (Other than they’re from the Greatest Generation, the oldest demographic group still alive, and those who still vehemently, and overwhelmingly, have missed the truth about cannabis.)
I’ll let you ponder that question for a moment. And combine your answer with the silliest political gambit I’ve come across: a “pledge.” A pledge that started just after the midpoint of the last century; a pledge to not propose, support or vote for any additional taxes. This silly pledge dates back to the Eisenhower Administration, according to NHPR, and according to figures from usgovernmentspending.com, the New Hampshire state budget reached $169 million in fiscal year 1957. Today the NH state budget is nearly $6 billion a year. Progress and time necessitate new ways to collect revenue and provide services. Period.
Now, back to the pledge: guess what it leads to? We know, we’ve seen it now for decades: bad government, and the passing of responsibility for funding government to local jurisdictions in hundreds of small New Hampshire towns—like the one where I live. Property taxes have doubled in just the past few years. New Hampshire now trails only New Jersey in highest property taxes in the country. What hasn’t doubled in New Hampshire recently? Income. Some employers still get away with paying workers—and I use the term loosely, more like indentured servants—$7.25 an hour! Because that’s the federal minimum, and you know, in the ‘Live Free or Die’ state, we don’t have laws requiring a minimum wage. And that means if you’re making $7.25 an hour, your employer would pay you less—if he or she could. Think about that: if employers in New Hampshire could pay you what the state pays its legislators, they would.
So local property taxes go up and services get gutted, while new revenue sources aren’t considered. What kind of government ‘Of the people, By the people, For the people’ is that? Screwed. I take some solace that the state of New Hampshire is not just out-of-touch on cannabis, the state of New Hampshire is out-of-touch on so much more. Which makes the motto seem more like ‘Live Free Of State Government Or Die (or Just Go Away)’.
For work, I act as an agent for legal cannabis companies seeking investor dollars. In that role, I’ve talked with 646 (and counting) legal cannabis companies and personally visited 94 of those in five different states. None of these companies is in New Hampshire, because our elderly, too-well-off legislature is stuck in Reefer Madness.
Last month I attended the National Cannabis Industry Association Business Summit and Expo in San Jose, which attracted +7,000 people and featured exhibits from nearly 500 legal cannabis companies. Now I’ve heard of the so-called Northeast or New England snobbery, but c’mon: Maine, Vermont and Massachusetts have seen the future, and it is legal cannabis.
Four years ago, I told voters in New Hampshire that we could take a leadership position in the legal cannabis industry. Yet our Governors, then Democrats, pooh-poohed the idea. Why? Heads in the sand and the inability to reason, to see trends, to read, to educate themselves. It’s too easy, as one candidate for County Prosecutor said, “It’s a (federal) schedule one narcotic.” Oh yeah? Well, that’s as antiquated an argument as is “Reefer Madness,” or the faux ‘War on Drugs.’
As I walked the exhibition floor in San Jose and talked with more than a hundred of those exhibitors, I felt sad for New Hampshire: so old and out of touch. Yet hopeful too, that a youngster like me (at 58!) can lead with passion on this issue and others—and convince New Hampshire voters to take part: Vote! Vote and you can have liberal policies that actually work and help people, and don’t tax those who can least afford it. In this divisive political climate, I urge you to stand with me! From the rooftops shout: liberal policies work! Liberal politics work! Legalized cannabis works! And on that last point, check out the success stories in Washington and Colorado: two states with five full years of adult-use cannabis legalization. Look at Massachusetts, retail adult-use stores slowly, and legally, coming on line. Look at California, where I was last month with 7,500 other business people making connections, signing contracts, and growing the industry.
I’m running this year to make New Hampshire tenth, or with the goings on in the legislatures in Connecticut, New Jersey and Maryland, and with voters in Michigan: maybe fourteenth. I’m also running to implore voters born after Nixon resigned to get involved, learn the issues in your area, and vote both smart, and responsibly. Vote! (Oh, and please: send a few bucks, help me win: www.secure.actblue.com/donate/tilton2018)
Roger Tilton worked for major Wall Street wirehouses and a boutique broker-dealer for 28 years; then on 4/20 2016, he founded Seattle-based Access Worldgroup LLC., where he has confidentially combined investors with investments in the legal cannabis industry. Check him out at www.acwg.co or www.accessRoger.com