The New York Times editorial board has voiced its approval of marijuana legalization in an editorial comparing marijuana laws to Prohibition-era laws banning alcohol.
In its initial editorial, The New York Times acknowledged the complicated questions of underage marijuana use, health effects, and regulation issues. It considered whether the federal government should wait to see the results as states continue their incremental reform of marijuana laws but concluded, “The federal government should repeal the ban on marijuana.”
The editorial discussed the “social cost” of marijuana laws, especially the disproportionate effect on minorities, and the health effects. “Moderate use of marijuana does not appear to pose a risk for otherwise healthy adults,” it decided, but adolescent use should still be banned before the age of 21. In an ongoing series this week, the editorial board will take up the questions of state’s rights, criminal justice, history, health, track records, and regulation.
In a follow-up column, “Let States Decide on Marijuana,” writer David Firestone argued that the federal government should lift its ban on marijuana so that states are free to make their own decisions. He also urged President Barack Obama to study the possibility of removing marijuana from the list of Scheduled I substances, considered the most dangerous of the controlled substances. A third op-ed, “The Injustice of Marijuana Arrests,” addressed the racial disparity of marijuana criminalization and called criminalization “a costly, futile strategy.”
The editorial sparked debate and responses from the treatment community, including a statement from Smart Approaches to Marijuana and an op-ed by former Congressman Patrick J. Kennedy focusing on the danger to children. Stuart Gitlow, president of the American Society of Addiction Medicine, responded in a letter to the editor, saying, “Legalize it, and more people will use more marijuana, leading to more addiction, lower productivity and higher societal costs.”