April 20. 2017 5:39PM
To the Editor: I write in response to your editorial opposing HB 640, the marijuana decriminalization bill.
The claim that “first-time possession has already been decriminalized in practice” is simply false. Although the law received a minor tweak in 2016, possession of even a tiny amount of marijuana remains a crime, and offenders are still subject to arrest and prosecution. The House vote of 318-36 in favor of HB 640 demonstrates that there is now a mandate for ending this wasteful, counterproductive policy in the Live Free or Die state.
It’s also true that the police chiefs’ association was not present for negotiations between stakeholders, which have been ongoing since last summer. In fact, they did not even show up when the House was considering HB 640 earlier this year. Instead, they waited until it went to the Senate before attempting to shoot it down.
Senators should keep in mind that the chiefs do not speak for all police officers. A 2016 Pew survey of nearly 8,000 police officers found that 32 percent support legalizing marijuana for adult use (not merely decriminalizing it.) Even if police were truly unified in opposition, it is their job to enforce laws, not to make them.
Finally, the Union Leader’s inaccurate characterization of HB 640 as “de facto legalization” adds no value to this debate. Words have meanings, and “legalization” means that penalties are being eliminated, not reduced.