NY Times: Legalize it

In a major editorial on Sunday, the New York Times called for marijuana to be legalized throughout the country.

Citing the high numbers of arrests for marijuana possession, overwhelming impact of current prohibitions on African-American men and health effects that are no worse than alcohol or tobacco, the editorial board decided that Congress should lift the ban.

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“There are no perfect answers to people’s legitimate concerns about marijuana use,” the Times wrote. “But neither are there such answers about tobacco or alcohol, and we believe that on every level — health effects, the impact on society and law-and-order issues — the balance falls squarely on the side of national legalization."

The editorial board's dramatic call for federal legalization would leave the decision on whether weed should be produced for recreational or medicinal purposes on the states, where it belongs, the Times said.

Still, sales should be limited to people over 21, the newspaper urged, due to “legitimate concerns” about the impact on adolescents’ brain development. A nationwide regulatory system would surely be “complex,” it added, but is “solvable, and would have long been dealt with had we as a nation not clung to the decision to make marijuana production and use a federal crime.”

Currently, the federal government considers marijuana to be Schedule I substance, meaning it has no acceptable use as medicine and has a high potential for abuse. Other drugs considered to be more serious, such as heroin and LSD, are also Schedule I substances.

Changing national attitudes and action at the state level have posed a problem for those national laws, however. Both Colorado and Washington currently allow marijuana to be sold for recreational purposes, and a majority of the country supports the legalization of the drug.

The Obama administration has made some moves to accommodate those state laws and has pledged not to go after people who legally smoke weed in their state, even if it violates federal law.

The prospect of full legalization may seem dim for the time being, the Times admitted, but that doesn’t mean that it is worth ignoring.

“We recognize that this Congress is as unlikely to take action on marijuana as it has been on other big issues,” the Times declared. “But it is long past time to repeal this version of Prohibition.”

Sunday’s editorial was the first in a six-part series on marijuana legalization at the newspaper.

Future additions promise to focus on “criminal justice,” “health” and “regulation” of the drug.