Pubdate: Tue, 05 Aug 2014
Source: Record, The (Stockton, CA)
Copyright: 2014 The Record
Author: Debra J. Saunders


The New York Times has seen the light. The paper editorialized in favor
of an end to the federal ban on marijuana. According to Tony Newman of
the Drug Policy Alliance, The Gray Lady has become the first major
national newspaper to support legalizing marijuana.

The Times did not celebrate marijuana use; it simply addressed the
downside of prohibition - 658,000 arrests for marijuana possession in
2012, with a disproportionate representation of young black men. The
editorial also laid out a rational view of marijuana. While research
suggests that marijuana can have adverse affects on adolescent brains
- - hence the paper's support for a ban on sales to those younger than
21 - it's not as hazardous to health as alcohol and tobacco. The paper
also made this commonsense but rare assertion: "Moderate use of
marijuana does not appear to pose a risk for otherwise healthy adults."

My guess is the editorial board wanted to appear relevant instead of
late to the party. In 2012, Colorado and Washington voters approved
ballot measures to legalize the recreational use of marijuana. Last
year, a Gallup poll found that 58 percent of respondents support
legalization. I think the New York Times wanted to speak out before
voters in Oregon, and perhaps Alaska, pass similar legalization laws
in November.

Editorial board member David Firestone urged President Barack Obama to
order Attorney General Eric Holder to begin a study to remove
marijuana from the federal list of controlled drugs. Likewise, Rep.
Jared Polis, D-Colo., has introduced the Ending Federal Marijuana
Prohibition Act. While few observers expect the bill to pass, the
Times' editorial just might prompt a few lawmakers to rethink what has
been knee-jerk opposition to change.

Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Dublin, signed on as a co-sponsor of the bill
last year - and he's a former prosecutor. "I believe that citizens in
states across the county should be empowered to make their own
decisions as to how to treat marijuana," Swalwell said in a statement.

Apparently, it took marijuana to get Democrats to find a policy area
that states should decide. Asked on CNN about legalizing marijuana,
Hillary Clinton lauded states as "laboratories of democracy." When
Bill Clinton ran for president in 1992, he said he experimented with
marijuana but didn't inhale. Now states are doing the

Except California. In 2010, 54 percent of state voters rejected
Proposition 19, which would have legalized recreational marijuana. The
Drug Policy Alliance is working on a measure for the 2016 ballot that
addresses the concerns of Prop. 19 critics and builds on lessons
learned in Colorado and Washington.

Gov. Jerry Brown opposed Prop. 19, and he's not likely to support any
new measure. In March he told NBC's Meet the Press, "How many people
can get stoned and still have a great state or a great nation?"

It's an odd stance for a governor who reduced the state prison
population from around 150,000 in 2010 to 117,500 inmates. Do
Californians really want police enforcing marijuana laws when other
offenders pose a bigger threat to public safety?

Alas, Brown's GOP challenger, Neel Kashkari, also opposes

I asked Swalwell if he thought legalization would increase use. He
answered, "Honestly, no."

It's not as though it's hard to get marijuana in California, where
medical marijuana is legal. Then again, it wasn't hard to find
marijuana in my high school before medical marijuana. Prohibition
doesn't work.
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