To The Daily Sun,
The New Hampshire Legislature is considering HB-492 that calls for the state to legalize, regulate, and tax marijuana. It is vital that those who represent us in Concord understand the negative impact that legalizing marijuana will have on New Hampshire.
The 2013 Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) found that more than 24 percent of New Hampshire high school students reported using marijuana in the past 30 days. The rate of youth use is of particular concern because it occurs during a period of ongoing and critical brain development. Current research has clearly established that marijuana use has a negative impact on memory and learning and is associated with increased risk of mental health problems.
Research demonstrates that youths who use marijuana are more prone to conditions such as depression and anxiety. Regular use during adolescence has also been shown to result in a loss of 6 to 8 IQ points that continues into adulthood and reduced academic achievement. One in every six youths who begin using marijuana in adolescence will become dependent on the substance. The risk to youth today is further increased because genetically modified marijuana of today is far more potent than that available 10 years ago. The average THC content of marijuana has more than doubled from less than 6 percent to more than 15 percent.
In considering HB-492, the New Hampshire Legislature should carefully examine the experience of Colorado. Colorado and Washington became the first states to vote medical marijuana into law in 2012.
In 2012 more than 100,000 Colorado residents had received medical marijuana cards and there were 532 licensed dispensaries operating in Colorado. During this period of greatly expanded access to marijuana, Colorado has shown significant increases in marijuana involved traffic fatalities, DUIs, school expulsions and increased prevalence in seizures and emergency room visits. Additionally, a significant increase in marijuana use among youth aged 12 to 17 has been reported. In January 2014, Colorado voted to fully legalize marijuana. Considering the outcomes since 2012, the passage of this legislation is unconscionable.
Based upon what we have seen in Colorado, marijuana legalization will open the door to large scale commercial cultivation, production, distribution, promotion, and retail sale of marijuana and marijuana products in New Hampshire. In Colorado, marijuana infused candy bars, gummy drops, rice crispy treats, and soda are now sold at retail marijuana stores. Although, in theory, state law restricts access to anyone under 21, marketing strategies utilize images and packaging that are attractive to children. Colorado is the first state to report that toddlers and very young children, some requiring intensive care, are being brought to the emergency room after ingesting "marijuana edibles."
Were marijuana to be legalized in New Hampshire the price would decrease, and access to and use of this increasingly potent product will significantly increase. The 2013 YRBS data reported that 44 percent of our high school students indicated it was already easy to obtain marijuana. It is truly frightening to think that access to this substance will further increase, resulting in increased risk to our youth. Do we want to add that to the drug problems we already have in New Hampshire?
Please join us in educating parents, teens, young adults, community leaders, legislators and others regarding the dangers of marijuana and marijuana legalization. For more information: www.partnershipforadrug-freecommunity.org, www.drugabuse.gov, www.nationalfamilies.org, www.new-futures.org.
Lisa Morris, Executive Director
Lakes Region Partnership for Public Health
Senator Jeanie Forrester
District 2 - Meredith
Senator Andrew Hosmer
District 7 - Laconia