Legalize It? NY Times Says Its Time For Pot Prohibition Repeal

The push for marijuana legalization looks to be an undeniable trend in the United States, and that movement got a big boost recently, as no less than the New York Times editorial board endorsed a repeal of this country’s existing cannabis prohibition laws.

In an editorial published on Sunday, titled “Repeal Prohibition, Again,” the Times editorial board compares marijuana prohibition to the United States’ failed experiment at alcohol prohibition. The latter, the editorial notes, was repealed in just 13 years, during which time people kept drinking. The current ban on marijuana, the editorial says, has endured for 40 years, “inflicting great harm on society just to prohibit a substance far less dangerous than alcohol.”

Then, in no uncertain terms, the New York Times editorial board calls for a repeal of the federal ban on marijuana.

According to the editorial, the decision sparked a good deal of discussion among the Times’ Editorial Board, but they took inspiration in part from the growing movement in individual states to reform marijuana laws.

Of course, the most famous of these movements right now is in Colorado. That state decided to remove much of the prohibition surrounding legal, recreational marijuana use, and it has seen a notable boost to government coffers since. Reportedly, there have been some hiccups here and there, but these have been largely minor.

NYTimes Legal Marijuana

The Times’ editorial is especially surprising when taken in light of Times writer Maureen Dowd’s troubling experience with consuming too much of an edible marijuana product. Dowd came under criticism from pro-legalization quarters when she essentially admitted in the course of an article that she was unexperienced with the plant and likely acted against her better judgment in assuming that she could determine a proper dosage on her own.

To an extent, the Times’ editorial urges caution in approaching legalization, though it does not do so explicitly. The piece notes that “there are no perfect answers to people’s legitimate concerns about marijuana use,” but comes down decidedly in favor of national legalization, leaving the decisions on how to handle marijuana “precisely where [they belong] – at the state level.”

Keeping federal prohibition and letting the states decide, the Times argues, would be an incomplete course of action. It would leave marijuana users open to prosecution at “the whims of whoever happens to be in the White House and chooses to enforce or not enforce the federal law.”

The piece then goes on to cite the social impact of marijuana prohibition, including the 658,000 arrests for marijuana in 2012 and prohibition’s overwhelming impact on African American males. Doing away with marijuana prohibition, the Times argues, would alleviate some of these ills, even as it might open new problems. Some of those problems, though, could possibly be avoided if the sale of marijuana to individuals under the age of 21 was prohibited.

Of course, the Times acknowledges that its editorial is just that: an editorial. Doing away with a decades-old law on marijuana would take an act of Congress, and the Times realizes that this Congress “is as unlikely to take action on marijuana as it has been on other big issues.” Still, the Times argues that it is “long past time to repeal.”