Most of the time, my postings here revolve around a simple format: here’s an issue. Here’s what I think of it. Here’s why. It’s kind of formulaic, but it works for me.
But every now and then I find an issue where I really don’t know what to think. I end up with mixed and conflicted opinions, so I just toss it out and let you folks kick it around.
This is one of those times.
In Concord, New Hampshire, our state House has passed a bill decriminalizing marijuana just a little. If it passes the Senate and the governor (no sure thing — Governor Lynch (a Democrat, like the majority of the House and Senate — that will become relevant momentarily) has already vowed to veto it), people over the age of 21 caught with less than a quarter-ounce will be subject to no greater than a $200 fine — nothing more.
In Manchester, the city’s mayor, Frank Guinta, is a Republican who is strongly considering challenging Lynch for the governorship this fall. And Mr. Guinta does not support the bill. In fact, he’s so against it that he’s railing against one of Manchester’s representatives personally for his vote.
Representative David Scannelll, like most legislators in New Hampshire, has a second job. (That’s kind of necessary when the job of “legislator” pays all of $100.00 a year, plus mileage.) In his second job, he works for the Manchester School District as a spokesman.
To say that Mayor Guinta is unhappy that his school district’s spokesman is on record for legalizing marijuana is putting it mildly. He wants Scannell to resign from that job.
I can kind of see Guinta’s point. Drugs are a problem in Manchester’s schools (I lived less than a block from Central High School for over a decade), and here’s a school official going on record saying pot’s not that big a deal.
On the other hand, Mr. Scannell’s vote would not affect school kids in the slightest. I sincerely doubt that the Manchester school district has any students 21 years old or older, and the existing laws about pot on school grounds would still apply. And Mr. Scannell is not acting here as the spokesman of the district, but the duly-elected representative of his legislative constituency — and it is they, not the school district, whose interests and beliefs he is representing.
His defense is that his vote was a form of Constitutionally-protected free speech seems a bit much for this particular case, but I think it’s applicable — if a smidgen overly dramatic.
Either way, it’s an interesting situation, and I have a hunch how it’ll play out: Scannell won’t willingly give up either job. Manchester Republicans will try to use it as a cudgel to get Scannell voted out of office and replaced with a Republican in the House, and his employment contract (along with other employees of the Schol District) will be given extra scrutiny in the future, with an eye towards avoiding this sort of thing again.
But the case certainly brings up some fascinating issues…