Kudos to Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown and Joseph T. Jones Jr. for articulating the need for a more sensible marijuana policy in Maryland ("Building safe and just communities," March 3). Saddling people with criminal records for possessing marijuana causes far more problems than the use of marijuana itself.
The authors correctly note that replacing criminal penalties for marijuana possession with a civil fine "does not mean [they'll] stop going after the real dangers in our community — the distributors, the dealers and violent criminals who do real harm in our neighborhoods." Yet they fail to acknowledge that the only way to eliminate that dangerous underground market is to end marijuana prohibition and start regulating marijuana similarly to alcohol. There is a reason why we don't see violent criminals distilling vodka in basements of suburban homes and dealing it on street corners — because it is regulated.
As President Barack Obama recently acknowledged, marijuana is less harmful than alcohol in terms of its impact on the consumer. It is time to start treating it that way. Stop punishing adults who consume it responsibly. Let them purchase it in legitimate businesses where the product is controlled and where they will not be exposed to other more harmful drugs. Tax it and generate revenue for the state instead of flushing it down the drain into the underground market. Redirect law enforcement officials' time and attention away from adult marijuana users and toward addressing serious crimes.
The Maryland General Assembly is currently considering legislation that reflects the sentiment expressed by Messrs. Brown and Jones — it would "decriminalize" possession of small amounts of marijuana. Legislators would be wise to approve it. There has also been a bill introduced that would regulate and tax marijuana similarly to alcohol. Legislators would be even wiser to approve that.
Rachelle Yeung, Washington, D.C.
The writer is a legislative analyst for the Marijuana Policy Project.-
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