CONCORD, N.H. — Rhode Island’s former U.S. Rep. Patrick Kennedy and supporters of his advocacy group on Thursday railed against a bill that would legalize recreational use of marijuana in New Hampshire.

Kennedy and his group – Smart Approaches to Marijuana – say legalizing marijuana would create another class of addicts, akin to those hooked on tobacco and alcohol.

“We’re talking about a public health nightmare coming down the road,” Kennedy said. “I’m against legalization because I don’t want to see a for-profit industry whose only motive is to get more customers.”

SAM is partnering with New Futures – a Granite State nonprofit working to reduce drug and alcohol problems. The partnership makes New Hampshire the 20th state in which SAM has a presence, a list that includes Maine, where pot became legal in Portland last year.

Speaking at a news conference in Concord’s Legislative Office Building, Kennedy and other advocates urged New Hampshire lawmakers to wait and see how “the experiment” unfolds in Washington and Colorado – two states that legalized recreational marijuana use. In Maine, advocates plan to target Lewiston, South Portland and York this fall as they lay the groundwork for a statewide legalization campaign in 2016.

New Hampshire already has legalized marijuana for medicinal purposes, but has not yet implemented rules for its use. The proposed legislation would legalize possession of up to an ounce of marijuana for recreational use by adults.


Opponents of the bill pointed to the already-high rate of marijuana use by teens.

Results released this month on the 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health show that about one in 10 adolescents in New Hampshire report regular use of marijuana – the ninth highest in the country.

The survey also found that 80 percent of 12- to 17-year-olds who entered state-funded treatment in New Hampshire sought help for marijuana dependence.

Dr. Stuart Gitlow, acting president of the American Society of Addiction Medicine, urged lawmakers not to be swayed by the “spin” that no one is harmed by smoking a joint.

“Nobody ever died from smoking a cigarette,” Gitlow said. “They became addicted and smoked another and a third and kept on going.”

Gitlow said heavy marijuana use creates a decline in the brain’s ability to process, reducing productivity. Youths are particularly vulnerable, he said, because the brain isn’t fully formed until age 25.

“There is absolutely nothing to be gained from this, other than a short-term tax windfall,” Gitlow said, adding that treatment would cost far more than any revenues the state receives.

Chuck Rosa, who founded Chucky’s Fight after his two oldest sons died of accidental drug overdoses, said he works daily with teens and adults battling drug addiction. He said he doesn’t know of a worse idea than legalizing marijuana.

“It troubles me to think we’d compromise the well-being of our youth to make a few bucks,” he said.

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