When Jeffrey Pendleton of Manchester, New Hampshire, couldn’t come up with his $100 bail payment for a marijuana possession charge, he likely might have tried a little harder to drum it up if he had known that a measly hundred bucks was all his life was worth to the Live Free or Die State.
New Hampshire is the only state in New England to have not decriminalized cannabis, and therefore the only state in the region where Pendleton’s death would have been possible in the first place. "I would like to think that somebody who is arrested for a small amount of marijuana in his pocket and can't make $100 bail and then would die in jail would give people pause to re-examine our marijuana policies," said Democratic Rep. Renny Cushing to ABC News. Cushing is one of many New Hampshire legislators hoping to end the state’s draconian policy with a decriminalization bill that will unfortunately be too late for Pendleton, who was homeless at the time of his arrest and died of a suspicious opiate overdose while in state custody.
Four days after he began his enforced stay in prison, the Burger King employee—yes, that’s right, a current fast food employee who was still homeless despite his employment—was given something far, far worse than what he carried in his pocket to get himself arrested. For the record, that was a small bag of weed for personal use. The substance that killed him was a massive shot of Fentanyl, essentially medical grade heroin. Opponents of decriminalization laws in New Hampshire say that loosening restrictions on cannabis will send mixed messages as New England faces a heroin epidemic. Forgetting the fact that cannabis and pharmaceutical heroin are about as similar as a cup of valerian root tea and a handful of 100mg Xanax, politicians are falling back into their status quo safety nets with relish. If we ban all drugs, no one will do any. If everyone has a gun, we’ll all be safe. If no muslims are allowed, everything will go back to the way it was before 9/11.
It’s usually a strange piece of political trivia that New Hampshire hasn’t done what the rest of the Northeast has done and recognize the fundamental difference between drugs that, unmonitored, can easily and swiftly kill a person and those that have never directly caused a death. Jeffrey Pendleton wasn’t killed by heroin, and he wasn’t killed by Fentanyl. He was killed by New Hampshire.