Manchester Mayor Sends Kids the Wrong Message about Democracy

NH Coalition for Common Sense Marijuana Policy

CONCORD, NEW HAMPSHIRE — A letter from Manchester mayor and likely gubernatorial candidate Frank Guinta shocked political observers after being reported in today's Union-Leader. In the letter, Guinta asked State Rep. David Scannell (D-Manchester) to resign from his position as spokesman for the Manchester school district after voting in the 193-141 majority for HB 1623, a bill reducing the penalty for possession of one-quarter ounce of marijuana to a violation punishable by a $200 fine.

According to the Union-Leader, Guinta said it was inappropriate for Scannell to support the bill because "he interacts with kids on a daily basis." This logic caused many to wonder if Guinta realizes that most of the 193 legislators who voted for the bill have children of their own, and if he thinks these individuals are now unfit to interact with their own children.

"I'm pretty sure none of these 193 representatives considered their vote to be a vote in favor of marijuana use," explained Matt Simon, executive director of the New Hampshire Coalition for Common Sense Marijuana Policy. "And in fact, 40 of these 193 representatives were Republicans, three of whom represent Manchester — did Mayor Guinta take time to ask any of these individuals what prompted them to support the measure?"

As an example, Simon mentioned Rep. David Welch (R-Kingston), who spoke in favor of the bill on the House floor. Welch, who chaired the House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee for many years, has 23 grandchildren and 2 great-grandchildren.

"Rather than threatening young people with up to a year in prison for a minor marijuana arrest, leaders should consider the message such hasty reactions send to children about the political process," Simon explained. "We tell kids that if they don't like a law, they should get involved and try to change it; this is exactly what happened with HB 1623 in the House, but with hostile reactions like this from the mayor, it's no wonder so many young people are turned off by politics."

Despite threats of a veto from the governor's office and this hostile reaction from Mayor Guinta, the bill's supporters remain confident. The bill was given little chance in the House, but support steadily increased in the weeks leading up to the upset victory. Reformers can only hope the Senate will listen before rushing to judgment against the bill.

"Representatives in the House took their time, listened to their constituents, and weighed the evidence before reaching their conclusions," Simon observed. "Once decision-makers understand that eleven states have already taken similar steps, and that marijuana use has not increased following penalty reductions, they begin to see the common sense in this reform."

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