In her recent commentary, Elizabeth Heubeck has it backwards (“Legalization of marijuana should come with public health campaign,” Jan. 2). Legalization does not introduce cannabis to the consumer market. Legalization reflects the reality that cannabis is already here and provides lawmakers and health and safety experts the opportunity to govern its use and sale accordingly.
Further, legalization is not a tacit acknowledgement that marijuana is somehow altogether harmless. In fact, it is precisely because marijuana use may pose potential risks to both the individual consumer and to public safety that NORML opines that lawmakers ought to regulate it accordingly.
These regulations include the imposition of age limits for would-be consumers, prohibitions on the unlicensed commercial production or retail sale of the plant, analytical testing and labeling of cannabis products, restrictions regarding the use of the substance in public and the enforcement of strict penalties for people who operate a motor vehicle while demonstrably under its influence, among others.
Unlike those who advocate for a perpetuation of the failed policy of cannabis criminalization, most Americans understand that a pragmatic regulatory framework that allows for the legal, licensed commercial production and retail sale of marijuana to adults but restricts its use among young people — coupled with a legal environment that fosters open, honest dialogue between parents and children about cannabis’ potential harms — best reduces the risks associated with the plant’s use or abuse. By contrast, advocating for the marijuana’s continued criminalization only compounds them.
Paul Armentano, Washington, D.C.
The writer is deputy director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.
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