The editorial board is correct to demand that state lawmakers provide serious consideration to amending the state’s antiquated marijuana policies in favor of depenalization (“Decriminalize personal possession of marijuana,” Jan. 30).

Decriminalizing minor marijuana possession offenses — a policy that replaces criminal penalties with the imposition of civil fines — is hardly a novel concept. In fact, this policy was first recommended 48 years ago by President Nixon’s hand-picked Shafer Commission — the only presidential commission ever to be explicitly tasked with studying the issue and making public policy recommendations.

Since that time, numerous legislatures — including Connecticut, Maryland, Mississippi, and Nebraska — have adopted decriminalization policies, as have multiple cities and municipalities in Pennsylvania and elsewhere. In fact, today the adult use and possession of cannabis has been either decriminalized or outright legalized in a majority of U.S. states.

By any rational assessment, the continued criminalization of cannabis is a disproportionate public policy response to behavior that is, at worst, a public health concern. But it should not be a criminal justice matter.


Paul Armentano,

Deputy Director,

NORML | NORML Foundation,

Washington, D.C.


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