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A Look Inside The Marijuana Vote--Manchester Reps 4:1 For Legalization

                U.S. News And World Report just asked me if I had a party-line breakdown on yesterday’s marijuana bill (HB492).

                As a matter of fact, I came up with some interesting numbers last night.

                These are all based on the final ought to pass as amended vote, the one which occurred at 5:01 p.m.  I realize the earlier votes (especially the two with 172-168 margins) might be considered even more significant, but we’ve got to start (or end) somewhere.

                On the 170-162 passage (51.2 percent), Democrats were 106-83 (56.1 percent) in favor.  Republicans were 64-79 against (44.8 percent).

                That’s actually bad news for both Republican leader Gene Chandler and Governor Maggie Hassan.  After Chandler and his team worked to kill the bill, they lost nearly 45 percent of Republicans.  After Hassan went so far as to threaten a veto, she lost 56 percent of House Democrats.

                The margin should come as no surprise.  As a Republican, I’m ashamed to say that, as with gay marriage, my party is behind the curve on this issue; all nationwide polls shows that, but we’re getting there.

                If not for the Republican Liberty (HTA) caucus, which supported the bill, and the conservative (but sane) House Republican Alliance, the split would have been even more lopsided.

                Unlike the police scanning bill in which Democrat leaders stood against their members, Democrats were all over the map on marijuana.  I can only assume that a few votes were influenced by the governor, but apparently not many.

                The two counties most in favor of the bill are both heavily Democratic (Strafford 21-10 and Cheshire 13-6) but another highly Democratic county was the most against the bill (Grafton 8-15).  Most against percentagewise were Sullivan and Carroll (both 4-9).

                Manchester comes in with the most surprising numbers, 20 for the bill, only five against with seven absent.  That’s a four to one margin on a bill which passed by on eight votes.

                The only five Manchester Reps voting against the bill were Democrats Backus, Goley, Dan Sullivan, and Ramsey and Republican Souza.

                Chandler and three other members of his leadership team (Renzullo, Packard, and Sanborn) actually missed the vote.  Go figure.  Only Hess and Jasper were there to vote against the bill.

                Two of the three HRA leaders, Al Baldassaro and Carol McGuire were for the bill while Pam Tucker was against it.

With such close margins, every vote obviously counted so I was thrilled when Al Baldassaro told me that he had planned to vote against the bill until he heard my speech.  That’s about the best compliment one can receive.  Thanks, Al.

  Former HRA leader and former Speaker Bill O’Brien voted for the bill.

                It’s tough to tell how the vote would have gone had everyone been there.  35 Republicans and 27 Democrats were absent, and I usually find that on a close vote, absences tend to cancel each other out, but we’ll never know.  Republican leaders for example could have been offset had more Manchester Reps been there.  Who would have known that Manchester is such a hot bed for legalization!

                I have sought out no media on this, but I have a policy of responding to specific media requests.  I did an interview with CBS Radio as well as U.S. News, and Josh McElveen has asked me to stop by Channel 9 studios tomorrow for taping of this week’s Close-Up.

                Here’s my line—some might call it spin but I’m so dedicated to truth telling that spin isn’t really a good word.  In fact, I explained the U.S. News that I realize there is very little chance the governor will change her mind, but then, there is very little chance it’ll get out of the Senate.  In fact, reporter McElveen tells me that I’ll be debating the one senator whom I thought would be most in favor of the bill, so-called libertarian Andy Sanborn, R-Bedford, who according to Josh, does not like the tax aspects of the bill.  Give me a break Andy, marijuana receives parity with this bill; we tax cigarettes, so out of fairness we should tax legalized marijuana.

                But I digress.

                Here’s my line.  Marijuana as it now stands in New Hampshire is like this year’s New England Patriots team.  We’re moving the ball down the field with a ground game and will reach the end zone eventually, but it’ll take time.

                U.S. News asked me when I thought such a bill would pass here.

                I noted how John McLaughlin recently opined that marijuana would be legal in all 50 states in 10 years (I’m not that optimistic nationwide).  With continued and increasing public support, I think we’ll get there in five years or so.  The day will come when people like Maggie Hassan stop espousing Reefer Madness attitudes; that day will be when they realize such outmoded opinions hurts rather than help them at the ballot box.

                It may be sooner than we think, but I’ll go with five years.

                U.S. News also apparently has picked up on how gay marriage passed with John Lynch signing it only after threating to veto it until the very last moment.  No, I don’t think Maggie Hassan has the flexibility of John Lynch to see reality and change her mind although word in the State House today is that her office is being inundated with calls.

                Here’s another parallel to gay marriage.  Like the marijuana bill, that bill actually failed on the first vote in the House (by a one voted margin as I recall); it only passed after reconsideration.  That bill also received an inexpedient to legislate motion from the Democratic Senate, but passed on the floor when Democrats pressured a couple of senators—Deb Reynolds from the Plymouth-Meredith area as I recall.

                As usual if you find my memory flawed, you’re welcome to log in and correct the record here.  If you simply want to level an ad hominem attack, do it on your own dime.

                Speaking of dimes, did anybody realize that in this office shared by all Representatives, the phone doesn’t allow one to dial of state.  To respond to CBS, I had to go up to Majority leader Steve Shurtleff’s office; when I tried that again to call U.S. News today, I received the evil eye from various people walking by.

                Hey, Madame Speaker, perhaps it’s time to start treating all Reps (even back benchers like e) alike and provide access to an outside line.  Or should that be limited to Team Chandler and Team Shurtleff?      

                In reviewing various media reports on the story, I’d have to give the award for best coverage….the envelope please…oh, it’s a repeat winner.  Kevin Landrigan of the Nashua Telegraph wins again.  Good job Kevin.

                The strangest reporting—I’m not sure where I saw it but someone confused my use of the word “exorcise” with exercise.    Was it a typo or had this reporter not heard of William Peter Blatty and Linda Blair? ("The Exorcist" is one of my favorite movies of all time?  Friends of mine used to attempt to outdo each other in yelling the words Reagan shouted--yes even the dirty ones--like you know what your mother does in hell; that might make a good trivia question for next week).  But truly...I digress.


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Reader Comments (1)


Perhaps Sen. Sanborn is really looking out for his own personal interests. He does after all own and operate a retail food and alcohol establishment.

Taxes on recreational substances are the norm we are the state that takes maximum benefit from the so called Sin Taxes. A perfect conservative solution, tax the ones that use the product or service, free for everyone else!

No idea how to get people to look at facts and not the old racist stereotypes of Reefer Madness! Having the Government intervene by legalizing marijuana, thus creating legal distribution and sales organizations to take over from the current operators, the criminal underworld, is crucial. Until that time the criminals will run the show, and they don't card purchasers to see if they qualify!

Work Hard Have Fun!
Bob DeMaura
January 17, 2014 | Registered CommenterNH INSIDER

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