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Another View -- Bill Walker: Tax marijuana, not entrepreneurs

By BILL WALKER
August 06. 2017 10:07PM


NEW HAMPSHIRE IS NOT A HIGH-TAX STATE. But we look like a high- tax state to businesses thinking about moving here. We have two complex business taxes. Most CFOs looking for locations take one look at the “devil they don’t know” and cross us off their lists.

So we don’t have the environmentally friendly, high paying, biotech and software businesses that Massachusetts has. Our children have to leave our beautiful state to find good jobs.

If we want good jobs here, we will have to make our state business-friendly. We should be the Singapore of New England, not a backwater. That requires simple, clear, and low business taxes.

There are two ways to cut taxes without cutting infrastructure. One is to spend less by being more efficient. We are starting to do that, e.g. in education with school choice. Croydon students in their choice program spent as little as $8,800 per pupil for private schools that better fit some students (the state public-school average was $17,648.76 in 2015-2016, and is higher now).

The other way is to divert money away from organized crime. Liquor taxes, tobacco taxes, gambling taxes (e.g. the Keno bill this year), both prevent criminal violence and raise state revenues. But eliminating victimless “crimes” also eliminates bureaucratic empires. You don’t need a Gambling Squad to raid the Lebanon American Legion post if poker is legal, you don’t need a Prohibition Squad with blazing tommy guns arresting bar patrons if liquor is legal, etc.

This is why the New Hampshire Association of Police Chiefs is against taxing marijuana. The chiefs know that marijuana is less harmful than tobacco (or opiates) for the user, and doesn’t kill as many non-users on the roads as does alcohol. But they reflexively oppose anything that will reduce the size of police and prison payrolls.

For the rest of us, marijuana legalization is a fiscal no-brainer. The estimate in the legalization bill now languishing in a study committee, is that legalized marijuana would bring in at least 20 million dollars per year in taxes.

But the direct tax revenue is the least of it. There would be fewer prison inmates, fewer jobs lost, fewer lives interrupted, fewer wrong-address SWAT raids. More police could work on solving and preventing real crimes. Not to mention the gains from “drug switching.” Marijuana use is far less harmful than either alcoholism or opiate addiction.

Democrat governors John Lynch and Maggie Hassan (Hassan, with no sense of irony, mentioning that she had used marijuana herself) managed to keep up the Drug War in New Hampshire long after the rest of New England had legalized marijuana. This year, Republican Gov. Chris Sununu signed a marijuana decriminalization bill. This reduces the damage to young people arrested for marijuana (and hopefully will reduce binge drinking).

But decriminalization doesn’t get to the root of the problem. We are still subsidizing organized crime, and we are still diverting police and prison resources away from fighting rape, murder, armed robbery, and other real crimes. And we have been through all this before.

In 1920, Progressives, allied with those from whom God receives daily guidance, founded a large federal police bureaucracy to imprison their neighbors for drinking wine and beer. The views of a certain member of the Trinity who had turned water into wine for a wedding were ignored.

Under Prohibition, the murder rate soared. Methanol poisoning became a cause of death and blindness. Doctors made $40 million from whiskey prescriptions. Smuggling speedboats roared past Coast Guard cutters. Organized crime boomed.

Prohibition was not noble, but it was a conclusive experiment. When the 18th Amendment was repealed in 1933, murder went down. Drinkers switched back to beer and wine, instead of more easily smuggled whiskey and vodka. Organized crime went into recession after Prohibition, but they got their bailout when in 1937, FDR signed an anti-marijuana law.

Other countries have ended their prohibitions. Portugal decriminalized all drugs in 2001. Addicts got treatment. Drug use and street crime both fell. Switzerland now allows addicts to get opiates in controlled, safe clinics. Ireland recently decriminalized as well.

FDR’s nanny-state approach to drugs has never worked well anywhere, least of all here. How could it? New Hampshire was never about trying to build a nanny state. We were, and are, about Live Free or Die.

Legalize and tax marijuana. Cut taxes on our businesses. Bring the best jobs to New Hampshire.

Bill Walker lives in Plainfield, and works for medical-imaging database company M2S in West Lebanon.


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