High on Hypocrisy – Governor Maggie Hassan: Drug User, Drug Warrior

New Hampshire, February 13, 2014– This week New Hampshire governor Maggie Hassan (D) boasted that she is a former marijuana user. The revelation came on WMUR-TV’s Sunday morning “Close-Up” program, when the governor was asked by host Josh McElveen whether she had ever tried marijuana.

She stated that she had used it “when she was in college” in the 1970s and 80s. Hassan is a graduate of Brown University and later attended Northeastern University School of Law.

So Hassan now joins President Barack Obama, former President Bill “I didn’t inhale” Clinton, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, Secretary of State John Kerry and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. All drug warriors, all drug users, all high on hypocrisy.

Hassan has gone on to double down on her support for Prohibition. She says she will continue to block passage of the current marijuana legalization bill with her veto. She additionally came out for adding more “drug treatment” bureaucracy. Somehow drug user Hassan became governor without any forced “treatment”, and of course without the little difficulties involved in being imprisoned with violent criminals either.

Her claimed concern for “treatment” is ironic, considering that in 2013 she used her veto threat to gut New Hampshire’s medical marijuana law. Cancer and MS patients can technically use marijuana under her version of the law, but there is no legal way for them to actually obtain the drug. Inflicting extra pain on cancer patients is a crime against humanity.

It’s all about the political support of government-employee unions and tax-dependent corporate interests. The police unions, the prison guards, and the prison construction industry all depend on Prohibition. And they all come out to support Democratic governor candidates in New Hampshire. As does America’s even larger “prison industry”, the teacher’s unions. Hassan has been their standard-bearer as well, recently winning a lawsuit that she filed against a state program that provides partial scholarships to help poor children to attend private schools.

This “Boardwalk Empire” formula has been keeping Democrats in power in New Hampshire for ten years. The New Hampshire statehouse has been trying to roll back Prohibition, regardless of which party is in the majority. Five times in the last six years, they have voted to decriminalize and/or legalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana. In 2012 (in a Republican statehouse), a “decrim” bill passed with a 2-1 margin.

New Hampshire is tired of paying for Prohibition, tired of its drain on law enforcement resources that should be fighting real crime, and tired of the loss of civil liberties. This is the “Live Free or Die” state, and yet we are the only state in New England that has not yet started to roll back Richard Nixon’s “War on (some) Drugs”.

In 2013’s session, Representative Steve Vaillancourt (R) introduced HB 492 (sponsored by three Republicans and two Democrats), which would legalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana and place a 15 percent sales tax on it. The bill passed the House, and while in the Ways and Means committee the state’s DRA has determined that it would bring in $26 million to $39 million per year from NH residents. Sponsor Vallaincourt estimates that figure could easily pass $50 million when sales to tourists are included.

But Hassan’s veto makes it unlikely that Prohibition will end in New Hampshire as long as she is governor. So we will continue to tax the MacDonald’s meal of a working mother, and the house of a retired veteran, rather than tax a recreational drug. The only hope for change is Republican governor candidate Andrew Hemingway, who has said that if elected he will work with the statehouse to find a path to legalization.

Prohibition Never Works

Although marijuana is a far less harmful drug than alcohol, a look back at alcohol Prohibition is useful. When alcohol was made illegal (by a Constitutional Amendment, not by arbitrary Federal power grab), it caused the same problems that we have now with illegal drugs. People didn’t stop drinking, but the illegal alcohol cost them more. Tax revenue was lost. People died from adulterated alcohol. Profits from the illegal trade created an ecological niche for organized crime. Murder, assault, and corruption of law enforcement all skyrocketed.

When FDR took office, he quickly signed legislation repealing the Prohibition amendment. State governments started receiving tax revenues from legal alcohol again. The human costs of deaths and blindness from adulterated alcohol ended. Murder and assault rates fell immediately. Today, no one is killed in drive-by shootings over beer or bourbon. And according to New Futures (New Hampshire’s largest anti-substance-abuse group), the state collected around $150 million dollars in alcohol taxes in 2012.

Legalizing marijuana would have several benefits. First of all, as has been seen in other states with decriminalization laws, non drug users aren’t going to run out and start using marijuana. What will happen is “drug switching:” people who now may be binge drinkers or even OxyContin users will switch to the safer marijuana. No one has ever died of a marijuana overdose, and it doesn’t have the severe physical effects of many other drugs of abuse. While HB 492 will keep it illegal to drive under the influence of marijuana, THC in the blood doesn’t affect traffic safety as severely as alcohol does.

The NH affiliate of ACLU has released a report showing that direct costs to the state of prosecuting marijuana crimes were $6,526,364 in 2010. But the real cost to society must be far higher. Current law provides for a jail sentence of up to one year for possession of even the smallest amount of marijuana. A young person convicted for a youthful indiscretion can have his/her entire life derailed, education disrupted, career aborted, relationships cut off. When in prison with violent criminals, peaceful offenders may even be permanently injured or drawn into a life of crime.

If New Hampshire wants to live up to its “Live Free or Die” motto, it’s going to have to stop voting for Prohibitionists like Hassan. Republican candidate Hemingway has a tough race ahead; Hassan has the financial support of the health-insurance monopoly created by the preceding governor’s regulations. She also has money from casino-monopoly interests, public-school monopoly interests, and a campaign army of government-employee unions. All Andrew Hemingway has is his support for our traditional freedoms.

Bill Walker is a member of the New Hampshire Liberty Alliance and the Sullivan County Republican committee.