The New York Times editorial board on Saturday called on the federal government to legalize marijuana, comparing the ban on weed to Prohibition.
“It took 13 years for the United States to come to its senses and end Prohibition, 13 years in which people kept drinking, otherwise law-abiding citizens became criminals and crime syndicates arose and flourished,” the Times wrote in an editorial in the paper’s Sunday Review. “It has been more than 40 years since Congress passed the current ban on marijuana, inflicting great harm on society just to prohibit a substance far less dangerous than alcohol.”
The paper slammed current drug laws and their social costs.
“Even worse, the result is racist, falling disproportionately on young black men, ruining their lives and creating new generations of career criminals,” the wrote.
The editorial board brought the health concerns surrounding marijuana, but argued that it is less dangerous than alcohol and tobacco and said that it should only be legal for those age 21 and older.
“Claims that marijuana is a gateway to more dangerous drugs are as fanciful as the ‘Reefer Madness’ images of murder, rape and suicide,” the Times wrote.
The Times wrote that they considered whether states should lead the way by experimenting with decriminalization and legalization, but the paper argued that this approach “would leave [state] citizens vulnerable to the whims of whoever happens to be in the White House and chooses to enforce or not enforce the federal law.”
The editorial board will continue to explore the legalization of marijuana in a series of editorials.
Andrew Rosenthal, the editorial page editor, told Politico’s Playbook that the editorial was a long time coming.
“The position on marijuana wasn’t exactly controversial as a policy matter, although we had an interesting debate on three approaches: let Washington do the wait-and-see thing it has been doing; decriminalization, and outright repeal of the law against marijuana,” he said. “We mostly had to consider whether it was time for the Times (meaning the editorial page) to make this kind of statement and how to do it.”