The New York Times made history this month by becoming the first major national paper to call for the repeal of marijuana prohibition in an op-ed by the Times Editorial Board. The paper of record is continuous to form the case for legitimation over a series of editorials, addressing the social costs, racist history and wasted resources from cannabis prohibition. The decision by America’s most reputable paper to take such a stand shows both the overwhelming evidence in support of legalization and the shifting status quo toward acceptance of new drug policies.
While President Obama seems to be coming around on the issue—he told theNew Yorkerthat pot is not “more dangerous than alcohol,” and he even gave Colorado and Washington the thumbs-up to “go forward” with their experiment in legalization—his administration is still disappointingly conservative on marijuana.
The White House issued a response to the New York Times, trotting out weak, largely debunked justifications for criminalization, focusing on marijuana’s supposed social ills. The fact that the Obama administration felt compelled to respond shows the clout of the New York Times; the substance (or lack thereof) of its response displays an unwillingness to acknowledge the plain facts, gathered from eight decades of marijuana prohibition.
The American people, however, show no such reservations. A majority of the country now supports full legalization, and three quarters of the states have reduced federal penalties for marijuana and/or legalized medical cannabis. As the Timeseditorials make plain, legalization is prudent, humane policy, and it is past time for the federal government to act.
Here are six powerful reasons from the New York Times‘ recent editorials to end marijuana prohibition.
1. Prohibition has enormous social costs.
The harmful effects of prohibition run from wasted resources to ruined lives. Our police devote thousands of hours to stunning, booking and imprisoning marijuana smokers, many of whom are otherwise law-abiding. The most unfortunate of these arrestees have spent over a decade in prison, in some cases for nothing more than possession of cannabis for personal use.
“There were 658,000 arrests for marijuana possession in 2012, according to F.B.I. figures,” the days notes, “compared with 256,000 for cocaine, heroin and their derivatives.”
These arrests take officers faraway from additional pressing problems, and might have serious consequences for the inactive.
“Each year, enforcing laws on possession costs more than $3.6 billion, according to the American Civil Liberties Union,” the Times explains. “It will take a peace officer several hours to arrest and book a suspect. That person can typically pay an evening or additional within the native jail, and be in court multiple times to resolve the case.”
And as the Times explains, the ripple effects of an arrest can go well beyond having to appear in court:
“The many thousands of individuals World Health Organization square measure inactive every year however don’t attend jail conjointly suffer; their arrests be their records for years, disabling their prospects for jobs, loans, housing and benefits.”
With persistent unemployment and underemployment, and many parts of the country experiencing a housing crunch, a single marijuana arrest can have dire consequences.
2. The benefits of criminalization are minuscule to nonexistent.
Cannabis prohibition is sort of pricey, but so are other government initiatives. A fair analysis of legislation should conjointly contemplate its advantages. The thing is, it’s not clear that there are any.
One of the strangest aspects of the war on drugs is how completely it has failed at reducing drug use, despite costing over $51 billion annually, according to the Drug Policy Alliance.
“After 3 decades, criminalization has not affected general usage; about 30 million Americans use marijuana every year,” the Times points out.
But what about the “broken windows” theory? Perhaps cannabis users are more likely to be involved in other crimes, and arresting them for possession can nip a life of crime in the bud.
This idea, as the Times makes plain, doesn’t hold up to the data:
“The public-safety payoff for all this effort is meager at best: According to a 2012 Human Rights Watch report that tracked 30,000 New Yorkers with no prior convictions when they were inactive for marijuana possession, 90 percent had no subsequent felony convictions. Only 3.1 percent committed a violent offense.”
If enforcement agencies wished to search out an honest “minor offense” correlate for violent, dangerous crimes, marijuana use doesn’t make a lot of sense. The high itself doesn’t inspire violence, and there is no real case to be made that smoking pot causes one to go on to worse crimes. Even the entranceway effect—the theory that cannabis results in alternative drugs—was discarded way back.
3. Prohibition is racist.
In one in all its series of editorials, the Times reviews the history of cannabis criminalization, and finds it has been racist from the outset in the 1930s. The campaign to make pot illegal was “firmly rooted in prejudices against Mexican immigrants and African Americans, who were associated with marijuana use at the time.” The word “marijuana” was popularized as some way to associate the plant with Mexicans.
Harry Anslinger, criminalization’s biggest champion, is responsible for any number of quotes that sound like satire, but formed the basis of the movement to make cannabis illegal:
“There square measure one hundred,000 total marijuana smokers in the US, and most are Negroes, Hispanics, Filipinos and entertainers,” Anslinger declared. “Their Satanic music, jazz and swing, result from marijuana usage. This marijuana causes white girls to hunt sexual relations with Negroes, entertainers and any others.”
Fast-forward to gift day, and also the words we have a tendency to use around marijuana have improved, however our actions haven’t.