My Turn: State needs revenue – why not tax pot?
As the new year starts, Transortation Commissioner Chris Clement brings the obvious to our eyes. As the Monitor reports: “The number of ‘red-listed’ state bridges is 145 and climbing. He’ll begin 2016 with a $48 million deficit in the highway fund. Thirty-seven percent of the state’s roads are in poor condition. And while plenty of lawmakers say they want to finish improvements to Interstate 93, they’ve put $0 toward the $250 million bill” (“DOT chief: We need help,” front page, Jan. 8).
Clement says he’s putting forth the needs; it’s up to the Legislature to find the essential resources. New Hampshire needs resources We could raise the gas tax, raise property taxes, raise the Business Enterprise Tax, force harm-causing gambling casinos into our peaceful towns. Then there’s the sales or income tax. Right. Not gonna happen.
One very good answer that would solve our revenue needs and better protect kids from drugs is to pass House Bill 492, which would tax the legal sale of marijuana to citizens aged 21 and older through the already existing state liquor system. There is, pardon the pun, a pot of gold just sitting there. While most citizens support the idea, weak-kneed politicians cling to their blinders. They don’t want to see the obvious.
Some say, well it’s probably a good sensible idea, but let’s wait to see how Colorado and Washington do. Meanwhile Alaska is likely to follow suit in just a few months as are states like Nevada and Massachusetts shortly thereafter. What, we don’t need the money?
We like to think of ourselves as a business and industry friendly state. There is a huge industry which could employ many Granite Staters just waiting to help our economy.
But what about the message it would send to kids? The current approach totally fails to keep it out of the hands of minors. We can realistically, easily limit availability, and the amount any individual may purchase. The liquor system already in place can handle this requirement that it be a highly regulated operation.
Look, we know alcohol is a dangerous drug which can be abused, and too often is.
Yet we also know making alcohol consumption illegal only made things worse. Having alcohol illegal and out of control was horribly counter productive, creating a huge crime network. So now instead of being out of control, alcohol is under control.
And in New Hampshire it’s a steady predictable a source of revenue.
Like alcohol prohibition, marijuana prohibition is also an historic failure. Keeping it illegal has meant it is out of control. It is time to get it under control.
Educate and regulate. There is no question that works.
And think about New Hampshire’s hugely overburdened legal system. There is serious violent crime to fight; it makes absolutely no sense to keep taking up space, spending our resources, in our overburdened courtrooms and jails with people arrested for marijuana possession.
We are in a serious crunch: little money and growing demands on our depleted resources. We have to do something that won’t hurt the taxed-enough average citizen.
New Hampshire has a proud tradition of leading the nation forward. We know eventually we will generate revenue from this now only criminally available source. The opportunity is now. Let’s crush the criminals, get marijuana under control at last and better protect our kids.
Do it today. Urge your legislator to pass HB 492 when it comes up for a vote in the House this week.
A bumper sticker idea: Don’t tax us, tax pot.
(Burt Cohen of New Castle is a former state senator. He hosts “The Burt Cohen Show” heard in Concord on WNHN-FM.)