The New York Times Weighs in on the Legalization of Marijuana


Earlier this year, the New York Times published a comprehensive, 6-part series covering the major aspects of the complex issue of marijuana legalization.

The official position of the Times’ Editorial Board is that the federal government should repeal its ban on marijuana.

Part 1:  States’ Rights

The Times believes that, like alcohol, the decision about what kind of substances to permit, and under what conditions, falls in the purview of the states.  By allowing marijuana for medical use, 35 states are already defying an archaic, absurd law that classifies marijuana as more dangerous than cocaine and methamphetamine.

Part 2:  Criminal Justice

The four decades-long criminalization of marijuana has had devastating consequences in terms of the hundreds of thousands of people – overwhelmingly black – whose lives have been damaged by incarceration or criminal records for no reason other than for selling or possessing marijuana.  Not to mention the billions of dollars wasted annually and the countless thousands of hours lost by law enforcement.

Part 3:  History

The federal ban on marijuana is rooted in racist and xenophobic attitudes towards Mexicans, who first brought the plant to border towns, and black and poor communities who also smoked it.  Through this lens, early perceptions about marijuana use were shaped by myth and propaganda – that it was highly addictive and led to insanity and murder – which went unchallenged and became legislation.

Part 4:  Health

Science overturns the notions that marijuana is highly addictive, as harmful as other illegal drugs (or even tobacco and alcohol), or a gateway to more dangerous drugs.  However, its negative effects are enough that strong regulation is needed, particularly to keep it out of the hands of minors.

Part 5:  Track Records

The legalization of marijuana less than a year ago in Colorado has generated revenues and stimulated the state’s economy, resulted in a great decline in prosecutions and drop in crime, and created a kind of normalcy no one predicted.  The only major problems to emerge have been the risks of overdosing on cannabis-infused foods and children consuming them.

Part 6:  Regulation

As more states choose the course of legalization, they face the challenge of how best to regulate this new industry. Ideally, a good regulatory system should be able to keep marijuana away from minors; limit the potential for drug abuse; protect consumers from dangerous or counterfeit products; and eliminate the black market.

This eye-opening series is definitely worth a read if you’re considering cannabis as an option for treatment but have been hesitating due to the stigma surrounding marijuana. Kudos to the New York Times for bringing to light the true history and issues surrounding the controversial topic of marijuana for medical use.