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Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Plenty to consider before legalizing marijuana in NH

Telegraph Editorial

Emboldened by Gov. Maggie Hassan’s signature on legislation authorizing medical marijuana use and a single House vote in January backing legislation framed to mimic Colorado’s liberal cannabis statutes, proponents of marijuana legalization in New Hampshire are feeling flush. They believe that sooner, rather than later, the Granite State will be living the high life.

Not so fast. ...

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Emboldened by Gov. Maggie Hassan’s signature on legislation authorizing medical marijuana use and a single House vote in January backing legislation framed to mimic Colorado’s liberal cannabis statutes, proponents of marijuana legalization in New Hampshire are feeling flush. They believe that sooner, rather than later, the Granite State will be living the high life.

Not so fast.

While the first year of legal marijuana has gone fairly well in Colorado, there have been a few bumps in the road as well.

There is this little concept called “the rule of unintended consequences.”

It means that no matter how much due diligence is paid to a new policy, there is no way to anticipate all of the dominoes it will set in motion. Even if a well-intentioned law solves many of the problems it was designed to address, it may also trigger unforeseen detriments.

There is evidence of this in Colorado, where marijuana use appears to be the most energetic. We’re not suggesting that with just a year of experience Colorado’s experiment is failing, but it’s clear its experiences are already offering valuable lessons for other states thinking of following suit.

Specifically, one area that has caused the most concern is with edible marijuana products. New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd made front-page news when she over did it with a
caramel-chocolate candy bar infused with marijuana. About an hour into her adventure, she became paranoid and began hallucinating. She spent several hours lying in the fetal position on her hotel room bed before recovering.

No doubt, some backers of legal marijuana would chalk up the experience a rookie’s mistake. The problem is, there are a lot of rookies out there.

Even longtime supporters of legalized marijuana recognize the seriousness of the edible marijuana issue.

In reaction to Dowd’s column, Director of Media Relations at the Drug Policy Alliance Tony Newman wrote in the Huffington Post:

“I have worked for the last fourteen years to end our nation’s disastrous war on marijuana users and I agree that we need to be very careful when it comes to foods and desserts that are infused with marijuana.”

Newman went to describe incidents he knew of where adults and children were traumatized by unwittingly consuming foods laced with marijuana.

“We need to educate people about the effects of edibles, even for those who are consciously eating them. Even those with experience should be careful when eating marijuana products.”

There is strong anecdotal evidence edible marijuana is causing increased visits to Colorado hospital emergency rooms.

Dr. Richard Zane, head of the Department of Emergency Medicine at the University of Colorado Hospital, said the hospital is now admitting about a person a day for pot-related problems, most of which are linked to edibles. He told Colorado Public Radio the increase in marijuana-
related visits coincides with the legalization of recreational marijuana.

In May, Colorado’s largest pediatric emergency department reported the number of children being treated after accidentally eating marijuana is on pace to more than double last year’s total.

Before New Hampshire legalizes marijuana, it must make sure it has the resources to reasonably protect public safety from the potential negative impacts of legalized marijuana. Two issues to consider are whether edible marijuana products should be labeled to inform consumers about the level of Tetrahydrocannabinol – the chemical that makes people high – and if legal consequences should be sought against adults who allow marijuana be consumed by minors.

Clearly, New Hampshire has a lot to think about before legalizing marijuana.