Pubdate: Thu, 01 Feb 2007
Source: Equinox, The (NH Edu)
Copyright: 2007 The Equinox
Author: Craig Lyons
Bookmark: (Cannabis)
Bookmark: (Decrim/Legalization)


At 10:15 p.m. on Friday, Chuck Weed was told to be ready by the phone 
for his interview on Fox News' "Hannity and Colmes" show.

The interview was only a part of the national media interest in the 
bill Weed, professor of political science and New Hampshire state 
legislator, introduced to decriminalize marijuana in New Hampshire 
known as HB 92.

The week before Weed was interviewed on "Hannity and Colmes," MSNBC's 
"Countdown" with Keith Olbermann named him the third worst person in 
the world for introducing the bill.

"This is not about the merits of the proposed legislation, there are 
pros and cons," said Olbermann on the program. "It's about the wisdom 
of this particular state legislator authoring the legalized pot bill 
rather than having somebody else introduce it."

Weed said he believes the first he heard of the broadcast was a 
student e-mailing him the clip available on YouTube and congratulating him.

"I guess it's quite an honor to be the bronze medalist," Weed said.

"I see Olbermann when he does his commentaries and I think he's 
fantastic. So I was trying to figure out in what context it comes 
up," added Weed. "I eventually saw it and I think it's satire."

Weed said he has no problem with satire and he believes the best news 
comes from Comedy Central.

"Although, I'm torn by the triviality and the comedy that associates 
itself with this bill just because it happens to be sponsored by me," 
said Weed. "I think it's a pretty serious bill."

The media coverage gave more attention to the name of the legislator 
rather than the content of the legislation. Olbermann, in the clip, 
smirked while introducing one of the bill's sponsors before throwing 
his hands up in disbelief.

"My problem is, with all of these people, that they wanted to laugh 
about the name Weed," said Weed. "I don't care, they're not my constituents."

The bill pending before his constituents and colleagues in the New 
Hampshire House of Representatives would decriminalize marijuana and 
remove penalties for possession, according to the text of the bill.

The bill has been turned over to a subcommittee for further review, 
according to Bill Knowles, chairman of the Criminal Justice and 
Public Safety Committee and state representative from Dover.

Many of the arguments raised during the interviews are those raised 
by the members of the House, according to Weed.

In the Criminal Justice and Public Safety committee hearings, the 
arguments were made for lowering worker productivity, causing 
accidents, causing deaths and marijuana being a gateway drug.

However, Weed said he believes all those accusations can be challenged.

"Not one marijuana death in the last 10 years as far as I can tell," 
added Weed. "I'm not sure you can say those things about alcohol or 

Weed cites the Netherlands for showing most of these claims to be false.

In terms of marijuana as a gateway drug, Weed said in the Netherlands 
marijuana can be bought and smoked in coffee shops.

According to Weed, there is much lower hard drug use in the country, 
but about the same use of marijuana as the United States.

"Why? Is that maybe that's because professional criminals sell 
marijuana and they also sell other drugs?" asked Weed. "So, that if 
you want to buy something from the same crooks, you can easily in 
this country."

According to Weed, the reports that come out of the committee are 
what the representatives on the floor will go with when voting. Weed 
said the bill is in need of changes before being passed.

"I'm absolutely certain it needs to be substantially altered," said 
Weed. "If they [N.H. legislators] wish to make it better by saying 
'Okay, if you're in possession of four ounces or less than there's no 
criminal punishment.'"

Knowles said the bill, as it currently reads, is just a step too far 
in decriminalizing marijuana entirely.

"Currently, we're not going to amend it," added Knowles.

Weed said amendments such as decriminalizing possession in small 
amounts rather than decriminalizing entirely for both possession and 
transportation would be helpful.

"I'm not sure that's what they want to do," said Weed. "They just 
don't want it to be decriminalized at all. So they'll use any way to 
avoid it and one way is to not amend it at all."

Although Weed said he doesn't see the bill passing, he said 
legislation for the decriminalization of marijuana on the state level 
is the way to change federal drug policy.

"I feel it doesn't have much of a chance," said Knowles. "But it 
depends what the subcommittee comes back with."

"I just want people to be able to do it [smoke marijuana] without 
fear and without conviction because I think convictions destroy 
people's lives," said Weed.
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MAP posted-by: Beth Wehrman