There are multiple bills aimed at legalizing recreational marijuana this year in the New Hampshire State House. HB639-FN-A is one of them, and it will be discussed in the Commerce and Consumer Affairs Committee this Wednesday at 1:15 p.m.
Fortunately for New Hampshire, as we consider this decision there are other states we can look to that have already legalized and see how it is going for them:
- After CO legalized, emergency room visits due to Cannabis Use Disorder tripled over the following five years at the University of Colorado Hospital, one of Colorado’s largest.
- Hospitalizations with marijuana exposures, diagnoses, or billing codes increased by approximately 200 percent after legalization.
- The number of calls to Poison Control for marijuana exposure increased over 400 percent from 2006 to 2015.
- The National Veteran Suicide Prevention Report indicates Colorado’s veteran suicide rates are significantly higher than the national average, with an increase of 25 percent from 2018-2019 alone.
- Despite the legal age of marijuana use is 21 years or older, daily marijuana use by high school students increased by 65 percent between 2017 and 2019.
- Teen suicide rates have increased significantly over the past few years, and marijuana is the number one drug found when toxicology is reported.
- Of teens ages 15–19 who died of suicide in 2018, marijuana was present in 37 percent of the cases where toxicology was performed.
- Marijuana use by those 12 years old and older has risen 30 percent, which is 76 percent above the national average.
- Among college-age young adults (20–25), “past-month marijuana use” is 50 percent higher than average, while “past-month use” for ages 12–17 is 43 percent higher.
- Colorado is also first in the nation for the highest percentage of adults who need drug treatment but aren’t getting it.
The Medical Director for the Medical Center of Aurora, the state’s largest non-public psychiatric hospital, said the emerging epidemic of marijuana addiction “threatens to swallow the lives of a whole generation of Coloradans.”
- In 2021, legislators acknowledged the public health emergency and passed HB1317; a bipartisan effort, sponsored by the Democratic Speaker of the House to limit marijuana concentrate purchases, adds more labeling requirements, and cracks down on underage medical cannabis relationships with physicians.
- In 2020, two years after recreational legalization was passed, the Vermont Department of Health issued the following statement, “Marijuana use is a significant public health problem in Vermont, and it is getting worse.”
- In 2021 the Vermont Medical Society released a resolution to advocate for several measures, including:
- A prohibition on the advertising, marketing, and promotion of cannabis in the state of Vermont.
- A requirement that all cannabis grown, produced, or sold, whether through dispensaries or retail establishments in the state, be less than 15 percent THC
- A requirement that all written and internet advertising of cannabis display up-to-date evidence-based warnings to include psychosis, impaired driving, addiction, suicide attempt, uncontrolled vomiting, and harm to fetus/nursing
- Vermont is now the state with the highest rates of youth marijuana use in the U.S.
- A 2021 University of Vermont presentation on childhood mental health cited the following:
- Approximately 9 percent of people who use marijuana become
- The rate increases to 1 in 6 (17 percent) of those who start before the age of
- The risk increases to between 25-50 percent daily
- 2.8 percent of 12 to 17-year-olds have Cannabis Use Disorder.
It is noteworthy to recognize that many elected officials are still willing to take a cautious approach. In 2021, Delaware’s Democratic Gov. John Carney vetoed a legalization bill, stating it was “in the best interests of the state of Delaware, especially our young people. Questions about the long-term health and economic impacts of marijuana use, as well as serious law enforcement concerns, remain unresolved.”
In addition, legalization ballot initiatives were rejected last November in South Dakota, North Dakota, and Arkansas, despite huge spending by lobby groups.
Granite Staters deserve to have a thorough debate on this issue, and they deserve their legislators to consider more than just profits when casting their votes. Granite Staters also deserve for this bill not to have been slipped quietly and quickly into the Commerce and Consumer Affairs Committee, instead of the Criminal Justice Committee, where the bill’s main sponsor is a member of this committee.
Legalization comes with a significant public health cost that all states should consider carefully. And although new data is emerging on this public health crisis, this is only the tip of the iceberg because there are so many more data points we are not measuring.