As a criminal defense lawyer in Manchester, NH for 27+ years, I have, unfortunately, made thousands and thousands of dollars defending people due to our oppressive and obnoxious marijuana laws. It is time to end this persecution of otherwise law abiding citizens immediately.
We marked 80th anniversary of the repeal of Prohibition late last year. We all now view Prohibition as a miserably failed social experiment that did nothing but give organized crime a foundation that has only grown since. No one defends it, no one thinks it was a good idea and the idea of bring back prohibition is incomprehensible. Yet that is what we have been doing with marijuana for decades.
Marijuana was demonized by the FBI when the demise of prohibition seemed inevitable, for the sole purpose of maintaining existing staffing level and budget allowances. The movie “Refer Madness” was funded by law enforcement, and painted a hysterical, out of control society gone mad with marijuana. If you ever get a chance to see it, you should, it is almost comical if not so misleading, deceptive and transparent.
One of the leading opponents of decriminalization currently in New Hampshire is the NH Chiefs of Police Association and the Attorney General’s office, the VERY PEOPLE WHO PROSECUTE citizens for possession. Decriminalization means less money for funding, which means less work and the need for fewer new jobs, from patrol officers, lab technicians, prosecutors, judges and clerks.
I cannot begin to tell you the number of young (and not so young) NH citizens I have represented who got a very sour taste in their mouths with the way their government (police, prosecutors and the Court system itself ) handled this benign offense. Otherwise hard working and law abiding people and families have be given criminal records, paid legal fees, fines and other costs, lost student aid, etc.
As a result many of those folks have become affirmatively distrustful and hostile toward police, and that does not bode well for our future.
An often overlooked “selling point” in this debate is the costs involved in continuing to prosecute this offense. At last count, it costs the voters of this State well voter $2,000.00 for a “conviction” that customarily carries a fine of $350.00 and no jail time. We are LOSING money in this failed endeavor every day, in every case. So that reason, ALONE, should give us cause to change our approach, like most of our New England neighbors.
WHO EXACTLY is this benefitting? See above. The shrill voices in opposition. They are the very people whose jobs in part depend on this industry.
At a time when budget dollars are scare, we must focus on real crime and real issues in this society, not fabricated ones that exist only to cause further harm to our citizens, budget and sense of unity and security. The Colorado and Washington taxation model is working and one from which we can benefit, (but that is another debate) and virtually every state surrounding ours has already seen the wisdom in ending this charade.
Call your legislators now and demand that your tax dollars be focused on detecting and preventing real crime.
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F. Michael Keefe is the managing attorney practicing at Keefe Law Offices PLLC in Manchester, NH. He can be reached at 603-647-4707 or learn more at keefelaw-nh.com.