More than two-thirds of New Hampshire residents support legalizing cannabis, but in past years it has often seemed that legislators were not hearing the voices of the overwhelming majority. One way citizens can be certain that their voices are heard in 2020 is by attending the public hearing on HB 1648 in the House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee. The hearing begins at 1:30 p.m. on Thursday, January 23, in Rooms 210-211 of the Legislative Office Building (107 N. Main Street, Concord). For those who have never testified at a legislative hearing, here is a brief primer on how things work and a few tips on how you can maximize your effectiveness.
(1) If you do not wish to testify, sign the sign-up sheet in support of the bill. This is the easiest way to register your support for HB 1648 without any pressure to speak in public.
(2) If you decide to testify, please take time to prepare. Legislative committees appreciate receiving written testimony in addition to oral testimony. If you submit one copy, they will put it in the bill’s file where they can review it later. If you submit enough copies for each committee member (in this case, 20), they can be distributed to the members so they will have your testimony in front of them while you are testifying. If you do not have written testimony, that is okay as well — but still, it is a good idea to prepare some notes in advance.
(3) Before the hearing, sign up. You will need to fill out a pink card with some basic information and submit it to the committee chair, or to a member of the committee. Pink cards will continue to be accepted after the hearing begins, but the chair prefers to receive them in advance. Your name will be called when it is your turn.
(4) When your name is called, approach the witness chair and introduce yourself. Begin by telling the committee your name, town, and that you support HB 1648. Then, spend up to 3-4 minutes telling them why you believe New Hampshire should stop punishing adults for possessing or growing small amounts of cannabis.
(5) Please be courteous and respectful. Legislators do not respond well to insulting comments or disrespectful behavior. It’s important to remember that the members of this committee are not our enemies. In fact, the committee passed last year’s legalization bill in a 10-9 vote. Any outbursts in the committee room, whether it is applause for good testimony or boos for bad testimony, will not reflect well on our efforts and will not be tolerated by the committee. Some legislators remain undecided, so it is very important that advocates make a positive impression. We may need a veto-proof majority and can’t afford to lose votes.
(6) Dress appropriately. Attire should be appropriate to avoid distracting from our message. Please wear business or business-casual clothes.
(7) Please do not repeat testimony that has already been presented. The hearing will probably last several hours, so we should be respectful not only of the committee’s time, but of the people who are waiting for their opportunity to testify. If all of your points have already been made, you might simply say “all my points have been made” and briefly encourage the committee to support the bill.