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Foster’s Daily Democrat: “Pot Proposal Acknowledges Reality”

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director February 14, 2008

    Kudos to the Daily Democrat in northeast New Hampshire for making my commentary in favor of House Bill 1623 the lead editorial in their Monday edition. 

    Here’s an excerpt:

    “According to government surveys, an estimated 98 million Americans — nearly half the U.S. population — have smoked marijuana. Clearly, criminal prohibitions outlawing pot possession have done little to curb Americans’ desire for, use of or access to this drug. Conversely, enforcing this prohibition has incurred significant fiscal and emotional costs.

    In 2006, the last year for which national data is available, law enforcement arrested over 829,000 persons for marijuana violations  the highest annual total ever recorded. Of those arrested, approximately 90 percent were charged with minor marijuana possession only, not trafficking or sale.

    Of course, not everyone busted for possessing small amounts of pot receives jail time — most do not. But that doesn’t mean that they don’t suffer significant hardships stemming from their arrest. Seldom emphasized penalties associated with a minor marijuana conviction include probation and mandatory drug testing, loss of employment, loss of child custody, removal from subsidized housing, asset forfeiture, loss of federal student aid, loss of voting privileges, loss of adoption rights, and the loss of certain federal welfare benefits such as food stamps. Thousands of Americans suffer such sanctions every day —at a rate of one person every 38 seconds.

    New Hampshire legislators can end this counterproductive practice by moving forward with legislation, House Bill 1623, that would replace existing criminal sanctions with civil penalties, punishable by a fine only. Specifically, this bill would impose a civil penalty of no more than $200 upon first-time offenders found guilty of possessing up to 1.25 ounces of marijuana. (Under current law the possession or of any amount of cannabis is a misdemeanor offense punishable by up to one year in jail and a $2,000 fine.) Numerous states, including Maine, Mississippi, and Ohio have had similar policies on the books for over two decades.”

    To read the full commentary, click here.   

    To learn more about how you can help pass HB 1623, check out NORML’s Take Action Center here or visit the New Hampshire Coalition for Common Sense Marijuana Policy.

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