A New York Times editorial is lighting up debate about legalization of marijuana. The paper's famously-liberal editorial board writes in support of fully legalizing the drug for those 21 and older.
The writers liken the budding pot legalization push to the repeal of prohibition on alcohol more than 80 years ago. This as voters two states - Colorado and Washington - have "legalized" marijuana. Not just for medicinal purposes, and several other states have done, but for good, old- fashioned fun and recreation. But marijuana sale, possession and use are strictly illegal under federal law.
"There are no perfect answers to people's legitimate concerns about marijuana use," The Times Editorial Board writes, adding:
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. That will put decisions on whether to allow recreational or medicinal production and use where it belongs - at the state level.
The writers raise - and shoot down - some of the counterarguments against legalization of marijuana.
The social costs of the marijuana laws are vast. There were 658,000 arrests for marijuana possession in 2012, according to F.B.I. figures, compared with 256,000 for cocaine, heroin and their derivatives. Even worse, the result is racist, falling disproportionately on young black men, ruining their lives and creating new generations of career criminals.
There is honest debate among scientists about the health effects of marijuana, but we believe that the evidence is overwhelming that addiction and dependence are relatively minor problems, especially compared with alcohol and tobacco. Moderate use of marijuana does not appear to pose a risk for otherwise healthy adults. Claims that marijuana is a gateway to more dangerous drugs are as fanciful as the 'Reefer Madness' images of murder, rape and suicide.
A small, but growing, group of lawmakers in Washington are pushing for marijuana legalization. On the left, advocates include Democratic Reps. Earl Blumenauer of Oregon, and Jared Polis of Colorado. There are fewer supporters on the right, though libertarian-leaning types, like Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) have taken up the cause.