Harris has good reason to oppose D.C. marijuana law [Letter]

July 08, 2014

Your recent editorial, "The Harris boycott" (July 7) put far too much emphasis on the politics and not enough on what really matters. The Washington, D.C., City Council has just passed the most lenient marijuana decriminalization law in the nation, with a $25 fine that is not only less than the average traffic ticket but involves no point system. Do we really want the capital of our nation and mecca for family tourism to go down this path?

The data show that states with lenient decriminalization laws have higher rates of youth use, as reported to the Centers for Disease Control, than those that have stricter decriminalization with higher civil penalties for the first offense, increasing penalties for repeat offenders, and/or requirements for drug education. In some states that have decriminalized in practice, the offense is still a misdemeanor criminal charge that is removed from the books only if you go through the court system. Most counties in Maryland had a similar "diversion" system for those apprehended for possession, even before our recently passed, and relatively strict, decriminalization law. For other states with strict decriminalization codes, check out the laws in Mississippi, Minnesota, Nebraska, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, and Vermont. The states with historically lenient decriminalization codes and high rates of youth marijuana use are Alaska, Maine, Massachusetts and, of course, Colorado.

As much as marijuana advocates may claim that laws don't make a difference to drug use, their position flies in the face of common sense and the truth.

Christine L. Miller, Baltimore

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