- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 1, 2016

An elected lawmaker who was busted for soliciting sex from an underage girlsold weed to several of his colleagues in the New Hampshire House of Representatives before he resigned from office earlier this year, the state’s attorney general’s office said Friday.

Kyle Tasker was serving his third term in office when the mother of a 14-year-old girl told police in January that the Republican lawmaker was sending inappropriate messages on the internet to her daughter. Investigators soon launched an undercover operation that involved taking over the teen’s Facebook account, and arrested Tasker in March when he tried to meet a police officer posing as the girl for sex.

Authorities executed a search warrant at Tasker’s residence after he was arrested and charged with trying to lure a minor for sex, and inside they discovered marijuana, MDMA and psilocybin mushrooms, among other drugs. Murmurings that Tasker may have been involved in drug activity within the State House prompted the New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office to launch an investigation of its own in early March that culminated with the release of a 5-page report Friday summarizing its results.

Tasker didn’t deal drugs inside the State House, but sold weed elsewhere to at least three other elected lawmakers, the report found.

“It is clear as a result of this investigation that Kyle Tasker used marijuana in the State House and sold it to a handful of state legislators, occasionally bringing the drug with him to Concord and distributing it there,” the report said.

A search of Tasker’s iPad and Facebook account uncovered evidence that led the attorney general’s office to believe at least five state representatives either spoke with him about drug deals or outright paid him for pot. Investigators interviewed four of those lawmakers, and three admitted to making purchases from Tasker; a fourth said she smoked with him once, and a fifth died of cancer in June 2016.

“None said they purchased any drug or drug product from Tasker but marijuana, and all seemed to believe that Tasker was trying to help people who needed marijuana for medicinal purposes but could not obtain it legally in New Hampshire,” the report said.

It wasn’t legal for New Hampshire residents with certain illnesses to purchase medical marijuana until April 2016, weeks after Tasker resigned.

One of the lawmakers implicated in Tasker’s dealings, Joseph Lachance of Manchester, Republican, told investigators that he bought marijuana from Tasker at least six times over a period of eight months before the state’s medical marijuana program got off the ground.

Mr. Lachance said he needed marijuana to treat chronic back pain, gastrointestinal illness and post-traumatic stress order, and eventually received one of the first medical marijuana cards issued by the state. In the meantime, however, he told investigator he had paid around $400 an ounce to purchase pot from his colleague.

“I had no other option,” he told the Union Leader newspaper “If the dispensaries were open, I wouldn’t have had to find Tasker.”

“Marijuana saved my life, and I will never apologize for it,” said Mr. Lachance, who told lawmakers that Tasker’s wide assortment of high-end strains made his home the “Club Med of weed.”

All five of the lawmakers implicated in Tasker’s dealings voted in favor of a 2015 bill which proposed reducing penalties related to marijuana violations.

One of Tasker’s admitted customers, Pamela Tucker, former deputy speaker of the State House, told investigators she bought marijuana and a marijuana elixir from Tasker. In March, she voted to table a bill that would have allowed adults to posses and grow small amounts of marijuana.

“She said she stopped buying from him because it was hypocritical to use marijuana when her official position as a legislator was to oppose its use,” the attorney general’s report said.

Mr. Lachance and State Rep. Amanda Bouldin, a Democrat who told investigators she smoked pot with Tasker but wasn’t a customer, both supported that bill. 

The Rockingham County Attorney’s office has indicted Tasker on 14 felony counts, including two filed late last month: felonious use of a firearm and conspiracy to sell or distribute a controlled drug. He’s pleaded not guilty to all charges and is free on bail.

The attorney general report released Friday did not recommend charges against any of the lawmakers who knew about Tasker’s weed business. However, House Speaker Shawn Jasper and Governor Maggie Hassan both expressed concerns with the elected officials’ behavior.

“Any member of the House who has knowingly committed a criminal offense should consider whether their actions have compromised the dignity and integrity of the New Hampshire House of Representatives, or have done a disservice to their constituents,” Mr. Jasper said.

“There are no charges, and therefore no criminal proceedings, but the voters will decide whether or not the representatives running for reelection deserve their votes.”

“All elected officials in New Hampshire take an oath of office and this is a very serious transgression,” said Ms. Hassan. “I’m very deeply concerned about it and I hope the voters will take this very seriously.”

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