New Marijuana Law
Governor Sununu recently signed into law the “decriminalization” of possession of small amounts of marijuana. Small amounts are defined as less than three-quarters of an ounce of marijuana or five grams of hashish. Some people take this to mean that this is legalization of marijuana use. This is not the case. Marijuana remains illegal and there are criminal penalties for possession or distribution of amounts that exceed three-quarters of an ounce.
According to an article in the New Hampshire Sunday News on July 23rd of 2017, a commission has been established to study the possible legalization of marijuana in the future. The reasoning is that other states have already done so and state involvement with the legal manufacture, packaging, and distribution of the substance will secure substantial revenue for the State of New Hampshire while controlling the distribution and use. This is the same way that alcohol is currently sold by the state in a regulated manner. If it is going to happen eventually on a national level, the reasoning is that we might as well get on the bandwagon now and expedite the process.
The commission is not short on members who oppose legalization efforts. This is a healthy decision as it will force debate about whether or not legalization is advisable in either a practical or moral sense. People who oppose legalization of marijuana point out that marijuana can be a gateway drug to other more powerful and life changing substances. They worry that younger people will get access to marijuana in a way that is unrestricted and cause changes to developing minds and bodies that will have long term affects. Lastly, they see a slippery slope of state involvement, already deeply involved with liquor sales and lottery revenue, that will further erode the moral basis standing of government. If selling these substances is morally acceptable, why not other forms of illegal activities?
It is obvious that the state’s change in legal treatment of marijuana began with the approval of medical marijuana. No different from other drugs that are available with a prescription, the value of THC (the active ingredient in marijuana) to treat certain afflictions is both beneficial and medically superior to some other drugs. Cancer patient’s post-chemotherapy have been known to do quite well with marijuana use to overcome nausea and lack of appetite. Glaucoma patients report many beneficial effects of marijuana use when taken in accordance with doctor’s orders. Chronic pain sufferers find that marijuana use is far more effective and less disruptive to the other human systems than opioids in treatment of their chronic pain.
The new law decriminalizing possession of small amounts moves the question to a different level. In this situation, people who use marijuana recreationally are not going to be charged with a crime. Though the possession is still illegal, it will not be considered an offense punishable by incarceration unless the amount exceeds three-quarters of an ounce or five grams of hashish. This would seem to invite the use of marijuana for recreation by virtue of the state’s non-action. Advocates feel that the decriminalization simply invites the next step of legalization.
The Sunday News article points out that there are strong voices on both sides of the issue. Our state is not necessarily ready to take the legalization move at present. The effects of legalization in states such as Colorado and Oregon would need to be studied and debated. A review of what happened during prohibition would be a good place to start in examining the effect that legalization of marijuana might have on New Hampshire and our American society in general. The best approach toward deciding the issue is a slow process that considers all different approaches and eventually comes to a conclusion that is best for our citizenry. All age groups should weigh in and make their views known before the state debates a bill and makes a decision.
By: Kent Barker