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Live Free, Get High In N.h.?

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Three New Hampshire representatives have proposed legislation that would legalize the use of marijuana in the "Live Free or Die" state. The legislators insist that the bill is in the state's interest due to the resources wasted in prosecution of what many consider a victimless crime.

Rep. Charles Weed, a Democrat from Keene, initiated the bill, which is co-sponsored by two Republicans, Rep. Paul Ingbretson of Pike and Rep. Steve Vaillancourt of Manchester.

Vaillancourt noted that one major concern with the criminal status of marijuana is the cost of enforcing the law, a law whose violators, some argue, are essentially harmless.

"As a legislator, I never do anything for my own personal benefit," he said. "This has nothing to do with me -- whether I use marijuana or not. I believe it is in society's interest to legalize marijuana because we waste a tremendous amount of time pursuing people who aren't doing anything except possibly hurting themselves."

He noted that individuals using marijuana illegally are far less likely to be belligerent or violent than those drinking alcohol legally. He also added that 10 percent of the New Hampshire population, when surveyed, admitted to smoking marijuana, while 20 percent said they smoked cigarettes; half as many people smoke an illegal substance as smoke a legal one.

In supporting the bill, Vaillancourt also cited the cost of putting someone in jail for marijuana-related crimes.

"It costs between $25,000 and $30,000 a year to incarcerate somebody," he said. "It is costing us a tremendous amount to keep these people locked up who could otherwise be contributing to society."

It is fiscally responsible to legalize marijuana, he added, because after decriminalization it could be regulated, and more importantly, taxed.

He insisted that the bill does not aim to encourage dangerous drug use as some opponents have claimed, saying that there would be tight regulation prohibiting driving under the influence of marijuana or smoking it in restaurants.

In keeping with his libertarian political leanings, however, Vaillancourt said he finds no problem with the concept of people smoking marijuana in the privacy of their own homes.

When asked about a possible conflict between the federal legal precedents barring the use of marijuana even for medical purposes, he said that if passed, the bill would be making a statement to Washington.

"I'm not sure if the federal statute would take priority, but it also would be sending a message to the federal government that here in the live-free-or-die state, we want people to be free to smoke a little pot if they choose," he said.

Jonas Singer, a former state legislative analyst for the Marijuana Policy Project, said that the legalization issue is a classic example of the tensions within federalism.

"The marijuana issue is an interesting microcosm for how the federal government and states interact," he said.

Singer added that the MPP, which researches marijuana legalization, sees the value in the possibilities for taxation and regulation that would come along with legalization.

With legalization, however, comes a host of issues including enforcing existing regulations and controlling interstate drug trafficking.

"The most compelling of their arguments is the tax and regulate approach," Singer said. "They would like to see marijuana treated like alcohol is."

Miles Yourman '07 said he supports legalization for many of the same reasons Vaillancort and his fellow representatives do, including its fiscal benefits.

"I'm not surprised to hear that some Republicans are in support of legalization, because it is fiscally conservative," Yourman said. "I'm from California where there is massive prison overcrowding. Not only do you have to spend law enforcement to prosecute the users, who, it can be argued are perpetrating a victimless crime, but also, you are taxing the prison organizations."

Yourman also argued that many of the dangers of marijuana come from the fact that it is an illegal substance that puts people on the wrong side of the law.

"When people are commonly asked what is dangerous about marijuana, they say that it is a gateway drug, but the reason that it is a gateway drug is because it's illegal," he said. "It gets them in the bad habit of talking to drug dealers and breaking the law."

Vaillancourt is unsure when the bill will be brought to the floor. Although he doesn't expect the legislation to pass, its mere presence, he said, is bringing important issues to the table.

Source: Dartmouth, The (Dartmouth College, NH Edu)
Page: Front Page, first column, top of page
Copyright: 2007 The Dartmouth, Inc.
Contact: http://www.thedartmouth.com/feedback.php
Website: America's Oldest College Newspaper The Dartmouth
 

Paladin

New Member
Either this man is incredibly naieve or he's lying about weather or not the federal statute would take priority. All he needs to do is look at how the feds react to med MJ laws that some states have enacted .......The feds are still prosecuting people for doing what the states say is legal.
 
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