We, the people of New Hampshire, need to come to terms with the reality of the laws regarding narcotics, recreational drug use, and their effect on our local communities. We often sleep well knowing our police departments are doing everything they can do to keep dangerous drugs and criminals off of our streets, yet, in Governor Sununu’s words, “we’re in the middle of the biggest drug crises the state has ever seen,” and while lawmakers are scrambling to create tougher laws to dissuade the use of said drugs, the situation gets worse and worse from year to year. There is a marked reason for this: maintaining legislation against non-violent behavior creates criminals of people who are otherwise minding their own business and creates a market where criminal enterprises thrive.
The Governor, along with many influential lawmakers rightly connect the legalization of marijuana use and the opioid epidemic, but wrongly assume that the use of one encourages the other – as a matter of fact, it is tougher laws and higher penalties that create an atmosphere for violence and abuse. Simple market economics prove out – if you increase both the risk and the rarity of a product, you increase its value and demand. This provides those with the means to facilitate the distribution and sale of illegal drugs the ability to make massive amounts of profits, and along with those profits comes the necessity to protect them through any means conceivable. Meanwhile, if caught, marijuana users could face up to a year per offense depending on quantity and sellers could face up to twenty years on their first offense – and that isn’t taking into account other drug offenses. To put that into perspective, a new father, unable to find work for whatever reason, if caught trying to raise money for diapers and rent by selling five pounds of marijuana would have to forego fatherhood until his newborn son is twenty years old.
When we talk about equality, we need to grasp the fact that these laws don’t affect all of us equally. The statistics for non-violent incarceration is staggeringly on the side of low-income citizens, and more specifically African Americans. One cannot begin a discussion about fixing the problems within our communities, in New Hampshire or anywhere else, without first identifying the government’s culpability in creating a solution to a problem that was nonexistent, a solution which has become a problem that has gotten so out of hand that it has left millions imprisoned, hundreds of thousands dead, and countless lives wrecked in its path.
In the meantime, NH residents are fronting millions of dollars to the State, charging them with fixing the drug epidemic, and yet their solutions are coming up fruitless. Perhaps, rather than spending millions of dollars on enforcing laws against plants, we should invest that money heavily into drug rehabilitation, into charities that have proven their ability to affect real change, and put that money back into the pocket of the people who run and sponsor such organizations. This model has been used successfully in countries like Portugal, where chronic drug use is considered a disease rather than a crime. Sometimes it’s less law – the impersonal hand we use to crush wrongdoing, instead of grace, which requires some understanding and empathy for our fellow humans - that will make the biggest difference. After all, what epidemic did we ever cure by calling it illegal?
Robb Goodell – Rochester, NH
Libertarian Party of New Hampshire: The Party of Humanity