Pubdate: Sun, 26 Jan 2014
Source: Concord Monitor (NH)
Copyright: 2014 Monitor Publishing Company


Should New Hampshire legalize marijuana for recreational use? Until
now, the question has seemed like an idle one. But with a recent poll
showing a majority of residents approve of the idea and with a vote
this month by the New Hampshire House in favor of such a measure, the
matter has seemingly gained new urgency.

Our view is this: Why rush?

In the past, the consequences of legalization, pro and con, were all
hypothetical. Activists on both sides of the matter could predict with
passion what legalization would mean for crime and incarceration
rates, for public health, for children, for the economy or for state
revenue, but they were really making just educated guesses. Today,
with the advent of legalization in Colorado and Washington state, we
have two real-life experiments from which to learn.

And there is much to consider:

If New Hampshire legalized marijuana, what sort of state regulations
would be required - for growers, for commercial sellers, for users?
Could marijuana be grown outdoors on farms - or only discreetly
inside? Would the government test the product for purity? Would there
be limits on legal potency? Would there be limits on the size of purchases?

Would the state impose restrictions on advertising? Would communities
be allowed to ban marijuana shops? Could they impose anti-pot zoning
ordinances in particular parts of town? Could landlords ban it from
their apartments? Would residents be allowed to smoke in public?

Would the state's colleges and universities allow students over 21 to
smoke on campus? (In Colorado, the answer is no.)

Could employees be fired for having pot in their systems? And what
would happen to those currently serving time for selling marijuana?

What would legalized marijuana do to public health: Would drug use go
up among adults? Would children be more apt to try it as pot became
normalized in society? Would it increase the use of harder drugs?
Would there be more addiction? More impaired drivers on the road? How
would the state and schools encourage kids to stay away from drugs
amid the hype?

Conversely, would crime go down? Would the state save money if it no
longer had to police the marijuana industry? Would tourism increase,
as it seems to have - at least initially - in Colorado? Would the same
rules govern residents and visitors alike?

Could a hefty state marijuana tax produce significant revenue for the
government? And how would the state figure out how high to set it? Too
high, and pot might become so expensive that an illicit market is
created - just what advocates of legalization are trying to avoid. Too
low, and the state risks losing out on a potentially important source
of cash.

The Obama administration has made clear it's taking a hands-off policy
in Colorado and Washington state. But what if a new administration
feels differently? Would New Hampshire run some risk of legalizing pot
and then running afoul of the federal government?

Those who successfully lobbied the state to approve the use of medical
marijuana in New Hampshire had a strong argument about doing so
quickly: Medical patients, some near the end of their lives, were in
great pain and believed that using marijuana would help them - right

In the case of recreational use, however, there is a strong argument
for patience. It's quite possible that officials and residents in
Colorado and Washington will want to refine the systems they have
created in the coming months and years. It's possible that some of
their initial hopes and fears will be contradicted by real-life experience.

New Hampshire legislators on both sides of this issue should pay close
attention to the states out west and keep an open mind. In this case,
it's more important to get it right than to get there fast. 
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MAP posted-by: Jo-D