More Common Sense in the Nashua Telegraph
Carl Hedberg -- March 20, 2008
When I ventured up to Concord earlier this year to testify in favor of decriminalizing marijuana in the state, I invited my 12-year-old daughter to come along. She and her sister are home-schooled, and it seemed like an excellent opportunity for a civics lesson.
She listened to the many articulate and well-reasoned arguments in favor of HB 1623 and saw that the opposition put forth just two relatively unprepared speakers — one from the attorney general's office and one representing the interests of the police chiefs.
As we were leaving, my daughter sparked smiles in the full elevator by proclaiming that the measure would have to pass, since the speakers in favor of the bill were so much better prepared than the mumbling opposition with crinkly notes. On the way home, I explained that if members of the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee were to base their votes on the testimony they heard, the measure would indeed have their support.
But because their views are based instead on entrenched and largely false notions about cannabis, they were not likely to be swayed by any amount of fact-based testimony.
Although the House of Representatives has taken the bold step of passing the measure, it is already being called dead on arrival in the Senate. If it passes that hurdle, the governor will surely uncap his veto pen because he feels that relaxing penalties for simple possession of marijuana "sends absolutely the wrong message to New Hampshire's young people about the very real dangers of drug use."
My older daughter raises a brow. Her confusion is understandable, since as home-schoolers, they get their messages not from the government but from responsible parents and mentors.
Marijuana is but one of many temptations she and her sister will face along the way — temptations that warrant their staunch rejection, at the very least, until they have physically matured. Once they reach adulthood, they will be free to make reasoned decisions about what substances they may put in their bodies. Or will they? As adults in America, they will be free to get themselves hopelessly addicted to tobacco, and they will be free to poison themselves with alcohol.
But as an adult citizen, if they use cannabis tincture to quell premenstrual discomfort the way Queen Victoria did, they will risk losing their rights and freedoms.
My daughters know that last year we spent over $40 billion fighting the war on cannabis and that over 800,000 Americans were arrested for the victimless crime of simple possession. They also know that although no one has died from an overdose, cannabis is not a substance children should experiment with.
These parental messages are guided by facts and credible testimony available in print, in documentaries and online. There are already lots of online sites that convincingly refute drug war proclamations about cannabis, including Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, The Science of Medical Marijuana, Marijuana-Uses and Vote Hemp.
The message to my fellow citizens is it is up to you to first avail yourselves of the truth about cannabis, and then be willing to either take direct action, or at least elect informed officials who have the conviction and courage to push against these laws that waste obscene amounts of our tax dollars, and more importantly, are far more harmful to users than the plant itself.
Carl Hedberg, Lyndeborough
Editor's note: Carl Hedberg is a board member of the New Hampshire Coalition for Common Sense Marijuana Policy (NHCommonSense.org), an advocacy group seeking decriminalization of cannabis.