While public opinion is rising in support of ending marijuana prohibition and politicians are starting to step up on the issue, it seems that some lawmakers are still way behind the curve.
The New Hampshire House of Representatives Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee voted 11-7 against recommending the passage of HB492, a bill to regulate and tax marijuana like alcohol, despite a new poll showing strong public support for the measure.
According to a new WMUR Granite State Poll released October 25 by the University of New Hampshire Survey Center, 60% of New Hampshire adults support HB492. Just 36% said they are opposed. The poll of 603 randomly selected New Hampshire adults was conducted October 1-7 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4%. The entire poll is available at here.
“Marijuana prohibition has been just as big of a failure as alcohol prohibition,” said Matt Simon, a New Hampshire-based legislative analyst for the Marijuana Policy Project. “New Hampshire voters are clearly ready for a more sensible approach. It appears some legislators are still less evolved than their constituents on this issue.”
Support for ending marijuana prohibition in New Hampshire reflects growing public support nationwide. A Gallup poll released earlier this month found a record-high 58% of Americans now support making marijuana legal.
Last Sunday’s Washington Post included an editorial supporting civil fines for marijuana use, particularly in D.C. The article comes after a similar proposal to the D.C. Council and support from Mayor Vincent Gray. The proposal would remove criminal penalties associated with possession of up to one ounce of marijuana and replace them with a civil fine. After considering public opinion polls, a report by the ACLU, and criminal justice statistics, the Post agrees: possessing marijuana should not make you a criminal.
An all-around better policy, long championed by District lawyer Paul Zukerberg, would be to slap small-time users with a civil fine, which is a measured way to send a message that the government does not condone or tolerate marijuana use. No one’s life would be permanently marred by getting caught with a joint.
Of all the official reactions to changing mores on marijuana, decriminalization is the best.
While we know that simple decriminalization will not solve the problems caused by keeping the marijuana market illegal, the fact that such a major newspaper is coming around is a sure sign of progress.
Marijuana prohibitionists have been stirring up controversy since a line of bus advertisements supporting Question 1 in Portland, Maine were revealed on Tuesday. The advertisements serve to spark interest among voters and pose the question, “Why should adults be punished for making the safer choice to use marijuana over alcohol?“
Opponents, particularly from a group called 21 Reasons, argue that the ads are irresponsible and should be taken down. Here is what the Portland Press Herald had to say:
Ultimately, though, the issues raised by 21 Reasons are beside the point. The Marijuana Policy Project isn’t selling a drug or promoting its use; it’s asking voters to change a law. Political speech is among the most protected speech there is, and barring these or any other political messages from Metro buses would erode these crucial protections. [MPP emphasis added]
Unfortunately for misguided prohibitionists, the ads aren’t going anywhere. Portland voters will have the chance to decide Question 1, which would remove penalties for adult marijuana possession of up to 2.5 ounces, on November 5, 2013.
Arts and crafts business magnate Martha Stewart has joined a growing tide of influential celebrities willing to open up about their personal marijuana use. In a June 12 interview with Andy Cohen, Stewart candidly responded to the question: “Do you know how to roll a joint?”
Martha Stewart with Snoop Lion
Stewart first told a story about her drive to the interview, during which she spotted the passengers of a neighboring car smoking “sloppy joints.” She then said, “Of course I know how to roll a joint.”
Former Disney pop star Miley Cyrus recently offered her two cents on alcohol and marijuana use. In her June 18 interview with Rolling Stone, the 20-year-old singer said, “I think alcohol is way more dangerous than marijuana. People can be mad at me for saying that, but I don’t care. I’ve seen a lot of people spiral down with alcohol, but I’ve never seen that happen with weed. As long as it isn’t illegal, there are far more dangerous things.”
Cyrus also stated that “it’s legal in the state of California.” While Miley is right that marijuana is safer than alcohol, she is mistaken about the Sunshine State’s cannabis laws. Recreational use is still prohibited, and possession of an ounce or more can lead to arrest.