It is good that members of the Legislature’s Criminal Justice Committee are concerned about the consequences of passing too many laws and enhanced sentences.

But managing prison overcrowding can’t be their only concern.

A question of priorities has been raised by Portland Police Chief James Craig’s advocacy for making cocaine possession a felony crime. Despite being highly addictive and a contributor to a wide range of street crimes, cocaine possession is currently a misdemeanor on the first offense, punishable by no more than one year in jail.

State Sen. Stan Gerzofsky, D-Brunswick, says he is aware of the cocaine’s destructive qualities, but he does not want “fill up the prisons more than we have now” by enhancing crimes and their sentences.

While that is one concern, Craig raises others that are equally compelling.

One is consistency. While cocaine possession is a misdemeanor, possession of pharmaceutical painkillers like OxyContin without a prescription is a felony. So is possession of heroin and methamphetamine. There is nothing in the literature to suggest that cocaine is less destructive to a community, so it doesn’t make sense to treat cocaine less seriously than these other serious drugs.

Another reason to boost possession to a felony offense would be the disruption it would create for the drug trade. Stiffer penalties would make the stakes too high for some casual users and would create more incentives for informants, which is the key method police use to fight drug gangs and organizations.

These and other issues make this issue worth pursuing, and Chief Craig is right to bring it up.