Today 3 of our members spoke at the statehouse opposing a bill that would legalize marijuana in the state of NH. Here is an excerpt from their testimony…
“One concern of ours is that marijuana is already perceived by youth to be less harmful than tobacco. According to the 2015 Youth Risk Behavior Survey, 60% of high school students in New Hampshire think that marijuana is harmless. If this drug is legalized, it will further convince teens that marijuana is harmless, when in reality it has many dangerous consequences.
There are many health consequences that result from marijuana use. Marijuana has all the problems associated with smoking tobacco including lung damage and potential cancer, but contains higher levels of dangerous toxins. It can also cause psychological problems such as panic attacks, anxiety, paranoia, and depression. Marijuana is also addictive, perhaps not with the same level of physical addiction as cigarettes, but with an equal or greater mental dependency.
Many consequences can be especially detrimental to teens. The teen brain is still developing, and can be more vulnerable to the effects of marijuana. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, marijuana use is associated with memory problems, difficulty thinking and problem-solving, and a drop in IQ. Students who use marijuana are also more likely to drop out of high school than those who don’t use, and it leads to an overall reduced intellectual level.
We are also concerned that legalization will undoubtedly increase the availability of the drug to minors. It’s concerning to see the current rates of marijuana use by youth in New Hampshire. As of 2015, 22% of New Hampshire high school students have used marijuana in the past 30 days, and this number will only increase if marijuana is legalized. Even though minors cannot purchase the drug, it will be more available to them. If 18 and 21 year olds are able to purchase marijuana effortlessly, it is only common sense that youth will have easier access to it as well.
The effects of similar legislation in other states should also be taken into account before New Hampshire makes the decision to legalize marijuana. The Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area has compiled data from the past three years since the legislation was passed in Colorado, and the data is alarming. In just three years, marijuana related traffic deaths increased by 48%, and marijuana-related emergency room visits increased by 49%. Most concerning to our group is the fact that Colorado youth now rank number one in the nation for marijuana use, at 74% higher than the national average. We believe that if marijuana is legalized in New Hampshire, then youth use rates will increase similarly.
As of right now, there is no need for New Hampshire to rush into this legislation. Many other states including Colorado and Washington and more recently our neighbors Maine and Massachusetts have all legalized marijuana. New Hampshire is in a perfect position to wait and observe the effects of legalization on these states in the next 5-10 years, and then make the best possible decision for New Hampshire based on more data.
NH needs to take time to look beyond the two extremes of incarceration and legalization and develop a middle ground approach based on science and the careful assessment of public health and safety.
For all of these reasons we oppose and urge you to vote against House Bill 656. ”