Pubdate: Sun, 16 Mar 2014
Source: Foster's Daily Democrat (Dover, NH)
Copyright: 2014 Geo. J. Foster Co.
Author: Ethan Gauvin
Note: Ethan Gauvin of Durham is a political science major at the University
of New Hampshire.


On Jan. 1, thousands of Coloradans eagerly lined up to make their 
first legal purchase of recreational marijuana. Amendment 64, a 
ballot measure that passed in 2012 with 55 percent of Colorado voters 
in favor, legalized the recreational use of marijuana and permitted 
adults aged 21 years or older to purchase up to an ounce.

The law also places the onus of regulating the manufacture, 
distribution and sale of marijuana on the state government. This 
unprecedented experiment in governmental regulation of weed is still 
in its infancy, but all signs are indicating that what's good for pot 
enthusiasts is good for government - and more than likely good for society.

In the first week of the law's implementation, Colorado marijuana 
dispensaries witnessed staggering sales. The 37 dispensaries that 
were able to meet the state's requirements by Jan. 1 made a total of 
$1 million on the first day and roughly $5 million over the course of the week.

Regulators have projected an eye-popping $600 million in marijuana 
sales for Colorado dispensaries in 2014, $70 million of which the 
state expects to receive in tax revenue. A proviso in the Colorado 
ballot measure ensures that the first $40 million collected in taxes 
will be spent directly on the state's public education system while 
the remainder will be used to regulate marijuana distribution, 
refocus drug enforcement efforts and revitalize flagging drug 
awareness programs.

That millions of dollars are now being poured (legally) into 
Colorado's economy and public schools is well known, but where this 
money is no longer going deserves greater attention. Illicit drug 
dealers, suppliers and gangs within and outside of Colorado will see 
their sales plummet by hundreds of millions of dollars in 2014.

Colorado is to be the first of many states (Washington is next) that 
will soon enjoy the profound economic and social benefits that come 
with legal marijuana. New Hampshire has taken note; the House of 
Representatives passed a marijuana legalization bill in January that 
was modeled on the Colorado legislation. However, the bill is 
unlikely to make it through the state Senate and, if by some miracle 
it passes, Gov. Maggie Hassan has publicly expressed her intention to 
veto the law.

This raises the question: why? Weed is no more stigmatized in New 
Hampshire than in Colorado or Washington (in fact some studies have 
indicated that New Hampshire has greater per capita use of marijuana 
than Colorado), and New Hampshire could certainly benefit from 
additional tax revenue.

Opponents of marijuana legalization have long argued that the drug 
(dare I say plant) creates a dependency in the user, and that pot is 
the proverbial "gateway drug." This argument, more appropriately 
titled a myth, has never been grounded in science and is simply not 
tenable. The Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of 
Sciences has publicly stated: "Because it is the most widely used 
illicit drug, marijuana is predictably the first illicit drug most 
people encounter. Not surprisingly, most users of other illicit drugs 
have used marijuana first ... there is no conclusive evidence that 
the drug effects of marijuana are causally linked to the subsequent 
abuse of other illicit drugs."

Gov. Hassan should evaluate the science, or lack thereof, behind the 
claims of marijuana prohibitionists. If any semblance of a gateway 
effect exists, it arises out of marijuana's illegality, which forces 
casual smokers to purchase from dealers that in many cases have 
access to harder drugs. New Hampshire has every reason - economic, 
social, and otherwise - to join Colorado and embrace the growing 
national trend. Just as with alcohol, we will look back in amazement 
and wonder why governments outlawed marijuana in the first place.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom