Response to ‘Why I oppose legalizing marijuana’


Washington, D.C.

Contrary to state Rep. Matt Baker’s presumption (Why I oppose legalizing marijuana, June 11, Williamsport Sun-Gazette), those of us who advocate for the legalization and regulation of the adult use marijuana market do not opine that the plant is altogether harmless or that it cannot be misused.

In fact, it is precisely because marijuana use may pose potential risks to both the individual consumer and to public safety that Pennsylvania lawmakers ought to regulate it accordingly.

Such regulations already exist governing the use, production, and retail distribution of alcohol and tobacco – two substances that are far more dangerous and costlier to society than is the responsible adult use of cannabis.

The enforcement of these regulations, coupled with the promotion of awareness campaigns designed to better educate consumers as to these products’ health effects, have proven effective at reducing the public’s use of these two substances, particularly among adolescents. In fact, according to the latest federal government survey data, teens’ use of alcohol and tobacco now stand at historic lows.

Instead of reflexively opposing marijuana legalization, lawmakers like Rep. Baker should welcome the opportunity to bring these necessary and long overdue controls to the cannabis market.

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 is the deputy director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML).