My Turn: Marijuana reform sabotaged in state Senate

For the Monitor
Published: 4/22/2017 12:08:31 AM

The New Hampshire State House has voted on eight occasions over the last few years to legalize and/or decriminalize marijuana. Every proposal in previous sessions was successfully opposed by Democrat governors John Lynch and Maggie Hassan.

But this year we have a Republican governor, whose campaign embraced decriminalization of marijuana. His party controls both houses of the Legislature. Republicans wrote and co-sponsored both marijuana legalization and decriminalization bills. House Bill 640, the decriminalization bill, was expected to coast through to Gov. Chris Sununu’s desk for his signature.

Sununu wants to boost the New Hampshire economy. That isn’t compatible with trying to revive the corpse of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s 1937 “reefer madness” programs. Decrim will save tax money, keep young people out of prison and divert law enforcement resources back into solving actual crimes. It will allow “drug switching” away from harder drugs; marijuana is far less dangerous on the road than alcohol, and far less harmful to the body than opiates.

On this issue, all other New England states have become more “Live Free or Die” than our own. Trying to maintain a system of Bloodstream Police in 2017 is more “Taliban” than “New Hampshire.” Imagine John Stark’s expression on reading that any government was going to send Redcoats to check his bloodstream. I doubt that Jeb Bradley would have dared to tell the general to his face.

Unfortunately, in spite of polls showing large majorities for marijuana decriminalization, state Sen. Bradley is daring to tell state residents to our face that we’re going to have to pay for more years of failed drug policy. He has put his political capital into sabotaging HB 640, pushing for an amendment that would remove the decriminalization paragraph (and thus the whole point) from the bill.

There are only two groups that directly benefit from Bradley’s move: illegal drug cartels and police/prison officials. (One other group benefits indirectly: 2018 Democrat candidates. Republicans who want to attract the important under-80 voting bloc, take note).

Police chiefs have been the main opponents of decriminalization and legalization in New Hampshire legislative hearings, fearing the loss of budgets and headcount in their little empires. Not only would police departments be much smaller without their victimless crime squads, but overall crime will plummet.

Addicts won’t have to steal to get drugs, there won’t be the blurring of moral lines when honest people break drug laws. Crime would return to pre-Prohibition levels, a career catastrophe for those depending on ever-expanding numbers of troopers.

Drug cartels fear nothing and no one – except the end of the Drug War. One can only speculate as to the campaign contribution policies of illegal drug entrepreneurs, but we know from the history of alcohol Prohibition that they know where their “price support programs” come from. Without the drug war, there are no wealthy, glamorous drug lords. They would all be replaced by the local pharmacist.

Of course only full legalization will completely realize the benefits of detoxifying from the Drug War. But decriminalization is an important step, one that would end our current status as the drug policy pariah of New England.

There is no way to have a world without drugs; there are still drugs in our prisons. There are only two real choices in drug policy. One is the path of personal freedom, which results in harm reduction, easy access to treatment, safe drugs and no drug cartels. The other is Prohibition, with all the cost, corruption and death. We can have a Live Free or Die New Hampshire, or we can keep paying taxes for our New Deal drug bureaucracy and admit that we aren’t as free as Massachusetts or Vermont.

The people of New Hampshire know that the Drug War itself is the worst of our addictions. The first step in ending the state bureaucracy’s addiction is to pass HB 640 in its original form. But decriminalization isn’t going to happen without public involvement. If Jeb Bradley thinks that no one is watching, he will try to keep us in 1937 as long as he can.

Let him know that we are watching. Call your state senator today, and let them know that it’s 2017 in New Hampshire.

(Bill Walker is a member of the New Hampshire Liberty Alliance.)

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