Replace Rep. Patrick Abrami as Chair of N.H. Marijuana Study Commission

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The chairman of a study commission is generally expected to demonstrate objectivity in two key ways: (1) he must elicit relevant testimony from a range of different sources and perspectives, and (2) he must, when talking to policymakers and the public, be careful to describe the commission’s findings accurately and without bias.

As chairman of New Hampshire’s marijuana legalization study commission, Rep. Patrick Abrami has met the first expectation, but he has failed egregiously in meeting the second.

On January 8, at a regular meeting of the study commission, Rep. Abrami requested authorization from the commission to speak on the commission’s behalf in opposition to HB 656, a bill that would eliminate penalties for adults’ possession of small amounts of marijuana and a small number of plants. The commission did not approve this, so Rep. Abrami agreed to make it clear that he would oppose the bill only in his personal capacity as a legislator rather than on behalf of the commission.

Rep. Abrami blurred this line considerably when he went to the podium on January 9 to speak against HB 656, but he did at least indicate that the commission had not taken a position on the bill. 

On March 12, when the House Ways and Means Committee held a work session followed by an executive session on HB 656, Rep. Abrami proceeded much more boldly, spreading misinformation about the bill and misrepresenting testimony that had been presented to the study commission in his effort to persuade his colleagues to defeat the measure. A transcript of relevant remarks from that session, along with responses that explain why they are misleading, is available here

Rep. Abrami’s failure to remain objective on this issue is no surprise to anybody who is familiar with his voting record. Rep. Abrami has, more often than not, voted against medical cannabis bills and decriminalization bills that have passed the House in the past — in fact, he was one of only 64 representatives who voted against the limited medical cannabis bill that passed the House with 286 votes and became law in 2013.

Polls conducted by the University of New Hampshire Survey Center have found 68% support for marijuana legalization (May 2017) and 56% support for HB 656, with only 25% opposed (February 2018)

In light of this strong public support for reforming our state’s antiquated cannabis laws, the people of New Hampshire deserve a study commission chairman who is fair and unbiased, if not outright supportive of reform. As residents of the “Live Free or Die” state, we respectfully request that you relieve Rep. Abrami from his duties on the commission and appoint a more fair-minded representative to serve in his place.