N.H. Debates Marijuana Decriminalization

N.H. Debates Marijuana Decriminalization
Posted by CN Staff on February 18, 2008 at 05:38:19 PT
By Margo Sullivan, Staff Writer
Source: Eagle-Tribune
Windham, NH -- Retired Salem police Officer John Tomassi is among a handful of police officers who believe the criminal penalties for marijuana possession are too severe.Tomassi, a Windham resident, is testifying in support of a New Hampshire bill to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana. If passed, people caught with a quarter ounce of pot would receive a ticket and a maximum $200 fine.
Attempts to legalize marijuana have failed in the past. But last week, a House subcommittee passed this bill 3-1 with some amendments. The measure still has a long way to go before it becomes law, and David Welch, R-Kingston, predicts this new attempt to reform marijuana laws will also go up in smoke.Yet, he was one of the three who voted for the bill. Welch wants lawmakers to debate the issue and said if the bill has a chance of passage, it would make for a livelier discussion. "We haven't had the debate in a long time," Welch said. The move to debate marijuana use comes from the plight of teens who smoked pot in high school and find out later a drug conviction has disqualified them for college grants, he said.Ideally, Welch said, the publicity about the bill will "hit the streets" and young people experimenting with marijuana will hear about the consequences and not use drugs. Meanwhile, lawmakers can consider if New Hampshire should join other states, including Maine, that have reduced the penalties. "We need to have a good discussion and find out if this is something we want to do," he said. So far, 12 states have decriminalized marijuana, according to Matt Simon, executive director of the New Hampshire Coalition for Common Sense Marijuana Policy. He called the vote evidence of "growing consensus among legislators that New Hampshire's penalties for simple marijuana possession are unnecessarily harsh."Simon, who has taught college classes, said he witnessed the impact on his students, their families, and the youths' future employment prospects."It's a case of the cough syrup being worse than the cough," Simon said.These teens do not deserve to be followed through life by a criminal record, he added.Tomassi, who now teaches economics at Bentley College, sees the problem from both an economic and law enforcement perspective. Legalization would not end the nation's drug problem but it would stop the violence, he said. Last year, 1.8 million people were charged with drug crimes, Tomassi said."You would like to think most of them were major drug dealers," he said. But most were charged with marijuana possession. Tomassi said drug dealers fear the legalization of drugs, which would dry up their profits and put them out of business. He draws a parallel between the current situation and crime during Prohibition. Most police officers, however, are telling lawmakers that reducing the penalty for marijuana would send the wrong message to teens, said Ellen Neilsen, D-Claremont. Neilsen said police testimony is taken seriously, but she still believes the war on drugs has been a failure."We need to try a new approach," she said, and consider separating marijuana from more serious drugs, such as heroin.John Tholl, R-Whitefield, also voted not to kill the bill and, like Welch, wants a debate on the issues. "I have mixed feelings about the whole thing," said Tholl, who is a police chief. But he pointed out that the courts are treating marijuana possession cases more like violations. "To be honest, most convicted people pay a fine," he said. "What kind of message does that send to kids?" Tholl also said he voted for the bill to make sure it was amended.The original version would have decriminalized possession of 11/4 ounces of marijuana. That's now a felony, Tholl said, noting he would not favor seeing it reduced to a violation.Complete Title: N.H. Debates Marijuana Decriminalization; Ex-Salem Officer, Kingston Rep. Back BillSource: Eagle-Tribune, The (MA)Author: Margo Sullivan, Staff WriterPublished: February 18, 2008Copyright: 2008 The Eagle-TribuneContact: letters eagletribune.comWebsite: Articles & Web Site:NH Common Sense Panel Backs Softer Marijuana Penalty Proposal Simply Acknowledges Reality Marijuana Ban Failing Just as Prohibition Did
Home Comment Email Register Recent Comments Help

Comment #9 posted by Hope on February 18, 2008 at 12:07:39 PT
Achingly, painfully true.
"Legalization would not end the nation's drug problem but it would stop the violence, he said. Last year, 1.8 million people were charged with drug crimes, Tomassi said."It would stop huge amounts of violence. Of course there are always the butt heads out there that feed on violence.
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #8 posted by Hope on February 18, 2008 at 12:04:46 PT
Praise God... Thank you, Mark Souder.
"The move to debate marijuana use comes from the plight of teens who smoked pot in high school and find out later a drug conviction has disqualified them for college grants, he said."
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #7 posted by runruff on February 18, 2008 at 11:29:22 PT:
Wolves are grossly misunderstood!
If you've seen the picture of my pack at Jerry's Story site you will see Sisco. He is 3/4 wolf. He is the sweetest most loyal fur bearing, four legged frinend a guy could have. I know the rest of his family all great loving family wolves. Many around here have full blooded wolf pets. I hate that they are killing these noble intellegent beings. But then the Bush/Cheney kabal are killing babies without any compunction so what is a mere wolf to these blood thirsty monsters? 
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #6 posted by FoM on February 18, 2008 at 08:26:29 PT
I didn't know that. Wolves are important and have their place in the big order of things. 
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #5 posted by Sam Adams on February 18, 2008 at 08:09:32 PT
Have you guys heard about Bush/Cheney's attack on wolves in Idaho and Montana?  They just authorized a helicopter slaughter of hundreds of wolves, I would put this as possible the single cruelest thing they've done, just for the sheer useless sadism of it: think the extermination of wolves is a classic insight into the American way. Somehow it's very important to the Republican element to squash any hint of wildness. Note how we methodically wiped out the Indians and Wolves during the same period, and made sure both would be crippled forever.It's interesting that the supposed goal of the USFS and EPA has been to restore wilderness and wolves for the last 15 years, but now, just at the wolves are recovering, the Republicans jump in to slaughter them once again. Nothing has changed at all. 
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #4 posted by FoM on February 18, 2008 at 07:44:55 PT
Yes I did see them dumping him on the floor and that made me sick too. 
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #3 posted by potpal on February 18, 2008 at 07:41:39 PT
Did you see the footage of the Florida police dumping a parapalegic to the floor? The cow tapes were horrendous, makes me want to go vegan. I'm trying, a step closer, presently I'm only eating animals that are vegans...;-) That's a bad joke.Anyway, sad to say, but most leos won't understand the difference between a civil fine or a felony until its their son or daughter sitting in the slammer...they have little compassion for other peoples.
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #2 posted by FoM on February 18, 2008 at 07:14:59 PT
Off Topic: I Am So Upset
CNN and MSNBC are showing the cruelty to downer cows and it is making me sick to think that people can be that heartless. Something is really wrong with some people and corporations.
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #1 posted by John Tyler on February 18, 2008 at 07:05:23 PT
cannabis debate
I’m glad to see the cannabis debate taking place in New England. At least they are talking about it. Maybe some of the legislators will come to understand the difference between a civil violation (with no criminal record) and the far-reaching consequences of a felony conviction, which can (because of the way the laws are rigged) affect many future aspects of your life. Of course these laws were instituted in an era when mostly minorities were thought to use cannabis and it was considered right and just to oppress them harshly with this set of prohibitionist “tools”. However, as the popularity and use of cannabis has spread out and is widely used by non minorities conflicts with the law are now seen as more and more unjust for what is now widely considered a harmless dalliance.   When some ask rhetorically, “What kind of message will this send to the children?” Tell them that cannabis prohibition was a mistake forced upon the country by and older and now passed on generation and it is now time to correct this historical and tragic error. This is an adult pleasure for adults. When you become an adult you may partake if you wish. As part of the rules of the debate I would like to suggest that only facts can be used.
[ Post Comment ]

Post Comment