Pubdate: Sun, 12 Jan 2014
Source: Foster's Daily Democrat (Dover, NH)
Copyright: 2014 Geo. J. Foster Co.
Author: Burt Cohen


As the new year starts, Chris Clement, the commissioner of the
Department of Transportation, brings the obvious to our eyes. As the
Concord 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

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 HB 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 and 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 very 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 NH
it's a steady predictable a source of revenue.

Like alcohol prohibition, marijuana prohibition is also a 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 NH'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.

This letter is already too long, there is not space here for all the
arguments for passage of HB 492. 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 HB492 when it comes up for a
vote in the House the week of Jan. 13.

A bumper-sticker idea: don't tax us, tax pot.

Burt Cohen served as state senator from 1990-2004 and currently hosts
The Burt Cohen Show heard in Portsmouth, Concord, and Walpole.
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