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New Hampshire’s House of Representatives just passed a law to legalize, regulate and tax marijuana.

The Senate has nixed such bills in the past, and the governor promises to veto it.

One can be forgiven for having mixed feelings about the whole thing. Some of my ambivalence comes from having no dog in the fight. I never use marijuana, and have no interest in starting now.

It is great, though, to see the states begin to reassert their power over the federal government.

After all, there is scant constitutional warrant for Congress to regulate or prohibit the cultivation, use or sale of any plant. When alcohol was prohibited, Congress felt the need to push through a constitutional amendment; when Congress gave up on the quixotic task remaking society through Prohibition, it repealed that amendment. Unfortunately, previous Progressive-Era anti-drug legislation had been enacted without much constitutional consideration, and was allowed because only a small portion of the population used the drug in question, heroin. It should be no surprise that much of the animus against the newly forbidden opiates was driven by racism. (The “Yellow Peril” nonsense especially. Early 20th century America was creepily and endemically racist.) Marijuana prohibition began after alcohol Prohibition ended, and much of the animus regarding the “weed” was also based on racism, this time against blacks and Mexicans.

And, of course, much of the anti-marijuana propaganda amounted to lies.

Now, billions of dollars and thousands of ruined lives later, increasing numbers of Americans are seeing the whole “war on drugs” idea as a botch job. Some even now view self-medication as a right, not a privilege.

A right “retained by the people”?

Well, most legalization arguments today rely more on the Tenth Amendment than the Ninth, frankly pushing local state power (“let’s tax and regulate!”) rather than our rights. And not every attempt to regulate will be as peaceful as simple decriminalization combined with allowed home cultivation.

Current New Hampshire pro-legalization advocates talk darkly of the dangers of illicit markets, especially their susceptibility to capture by organized crime.

But it’s always worth remembering: our governments routinely behave like criminals, too. (Just this week the feds raided Colorado medical marijuana operations, in a new “biggest bust ever,” alas.) Too much regulation is no better than too little, and maybe we should take our progress from marijuana prohibition through decriminalization to full legalization slowly.

Soberly.

A rights-based rather than powers-based advocacy for drug legalization would be firmer ground for reform than sub rosa state-mongering. The way some marijuana legalizers talk, with their incessant whine for “taxing and regulating” cannabis, I catch a whiff of something goofy in their agenda: are they hankering to get their fixes paid for by Obamacare?

If it is determined to be a “medical” drug “regulated” by government, and if we have a “right” to medicine (as says every prog-under-a-rock), then their notion follows . . . I prefer a right to self-medication. And an obligation to pay for your own darn drugs.

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