Editorial: Pittsburgh schools reduced pot penalties puzzling | TribLIVE.com
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Pennsylvania has yet to decide on the future of marijuana.

Yes, it’s legal for medicinal purposes. Yes, the possibility of recreational use is being explored.

There are very real reasons why that should be on the table. Why should alcohol be OK for frivolous consumption but marijuana isn’t? Valid question. But it’s still a question.

That’s what makes the Pittsburgh Public Schools decision to make changes to penalties for student possession both premature and confusing.

First offenders have traditionally faced a 10-day suspension that might be served through alternative placement in the Student Achievement Center for a minimum of 45 days.

The new protocol would give the option of a five-day suspension in exchange for meeting with counselors and taking a drug treatment course.

The district’s goal of taking less punitive stances on minor, nonviolent infractions is understandable. The brass ring is to teach kids, not act as a de facto prison camp.

But a mid-year switch in policy in the midst of a statewide conversation about recreational legalization and the increased possible availability of marijuana in homes because of medicinal dispensaries is troublesome. Making possession of a controlled substance less of a big deal seems like minimization at a time when lines are already being blurred.

Westmoreland County Detective Tony Marcocci expressed concerns about recreational legalization in a recent Tribune-Review editorial board meeting, in part because of the increased levels of THC in today’s marijuana. He also had concerns with the amount of drug use being seen in schools, but agreed with marijuana’s medicinal value.

There are many things that we use medicinally that we wouldn’t encourage our kids to use for fun. They aren’t allowed to bring nighttime cold medicine to class and take shots between English and chemistry. In reality, we have recognized that kids have abused perfectly legal substances like cough syrup and computer duster and made them more challenging to access.

At a time when opioids and prescription drugs are a huge concern, it seems like we need to draw the lines more sharply, not brush them away. With the smoke not cleared on marijuana’s future, why change the game now?

No, Pittsburgh Public Schools isn’t eliminating all penalty. But this seems like the wrong message at the wrong time.

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