Pubdate: Fri, 27 Jul 2018
Source: New York Times (NY)
Copyright: 2018 The New York Times Company


The federal government should follow the growing movement in the states 
and repeal the ban on marijuana for both medical and recreational use.

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. It has been more than 40 years since Congress passed the
current ban on marijuana, inflictingA great harm on society just to
prohibit a substance far less dangerous than alcohol.

The federal government should repeal the ban on marijuana.

We reached that conclusion after a great deal of discussion among the
members of The Timesa€™s Editorial Board, inspired by a rapidly
growing movement among the states to reform marijuana laws.

There are no perfect answers to peoplea€™s legitimate concerns about
marijuana use. But neither are there such answers about tobacco or
alcohol, and we believe that on every level a€" health effects, the
impact on society and law-and-order issues a€" 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 a€" at the state level.

We considered whether it would be best for Washington to hold back
while the states continued experimenting with legalizing medicinal
uses of marijuana, reducing penalties, or even simply legalizing all
use. Nearly three-quarters of the states have done one of these.

But that would leave their 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 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
a€œReefer Madnessa€ images of murder, rape and suicide.

There are legitimate concerns about marijuana on the development of
adolescent brains. For that reason, we advocate the prohibition of
sales to people under 21.

Creating systems for regulating manufacture, sale and marketing will
be complex. But those problems are solvable, and would have long been
dealt with had we as a nation not clung to the decision to make
marijuana production and use a federal crime.

In coming days, we will publish articles by members of the Editorial
Board and supplementary material that will examine these questions. We
invite readers to offer their ideas, and we will report back on their
responses, pro and con.

We recognize that this Congress is as unlikely to take action on
marijuana as it has been on other big issues. But it is long past time
to repeal this version of Prohibition.
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