Pubdate: Fri, 03 Jan 2014
Source: Hampton Union, The (NH)
Copyright: 2014 Seacoast Online.


New Hampshire is still months away from implementing a limited medical
marijuana law for the seriously ill passed last year. But lawmakers
are already being asked about legalizing marijuana for recreational
use as well.

The bill was introduced by state Rep. Steve Vallaincourt,
R-Manchester, who wrote to House members: "Nothing in the bill would
allow anyone to drive under the influence of marijuana or any other
substance. By legalizing, regulating and taxing (marijuana) society
would in effect be taking the profit away from illegal operations
which truly harm society."

While we heartily supported allowing marijuana use for medical
purposes, and making its possession a violation rather than criminal
matter, we're ambivalent about outright legalization.

Rep. Vallaincourt makes some valid points that are worthy of
consideration about replacing illegal operations that don't pay taxes
and drive crime with a legal operation that would generate revenue for
the state and would be less attractive to organized crime. This is
basically the argument that killed the prohibition of alcohol sales.
Prohibition, despite its good intentions, proved to be nothing short
of a disaster. People who wanted to drink booze were going to find a
way, whether legal or illegal, and the same is true of marijuana.

We also agree that marijuana is no more intoxicating than hard liquor,
beer or wine, all of which are big business and big revenue generators
for the state. Heck, the state has a monopoly on the liquor franchise
and it would certainly benefit financially from taxing or perhaps even
selling marijuana.

The argument that marijuana is bad for a smoker's health is undermined
by the fact that sales of cigarettes and other tobacco products are
legal even though, according to the World Health Organization, tobacco
kills up to half of its users and, in the United States alone, 440,000
people die of smoking-related illnesses each year.

So unless we want to be hypocrites, we can't make an argument based on
public health policy.

With all that said, we're certain that alcohol and tobacco hurt our
fellow Americans more than they help them and it's hard to get excited
about giving people easy access to one more mind-numbing,
brain-cell-killing substance for recreational use. In the end, we're
certain people will be made weaker and less productive by legal
marijuana, just as they are made weaker and less productive by alcohol
and tobacco.

Perhaps the arguments in favor of individual liberties and legal
consistency will win out, but the state does have some interest in
keeping its citizens healthy and strong.

On Wednesday, recreational marijuana sales became legal in

"The world was watching as Colorado unveiled the modern world's first
fully legal marijuana industry," the Associated Press reported. "No
doctor's note required (as in 18 states and Washington, D.C.) and no
unregulated production of the drug (as in the Netherlands)."

Here's what we propose: New Hampshire would be smart to simply watch
and see what happens in Colorado and then make a fully informed
decision a few years down the road. There's no reason to rush in like
fools without knowing what we're getting ourselves into. In the
meantime, we've got plenty to do to safely implement medical marijuana
in the state. In our view, there is no rush to legalize recreational
marijuana in New Hampshire and the prudent course of action will be to
wait and see what happens in the Mile High City, where more than a
dozen legal pot shops opened Wednesday.
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