The New Republic Calls for Marijuana Legalization


The drug policy scholar Harry Levine has done some digging in The New Republic's new online archive and uncovered evidence that liberals used to get upset about marijuana arrests. For those of us who have become accustomed to a New Republic whose editors are at best indifferent to the injustices perpetrated in the name of a Drug-Free Society, even as annual marijuana arrests have reached record levels, these reminders of a time when they cared about such things are poignant. Below are a few samples, but the articles are worth reading in full.

From an April 1967 article by John Sanford: "The worst thing that can happen to a person who smokes pot is prison, not addiction. The worst thing about marijuana is the laws against it, which should be repealed."

From a May 1967 editorial, headlined "The Indecent Society": "After 30 years of federal antipot legislation, and 10 years after federal penalties were raised to ferocious levels, no one has shown that marijuana is more hazardous than martinis."

From a June 1967 editorial, headlined "Keep Off the Grass?": "The federal Marijuana Tax Act of 1937 and state laws patterned after it should be repealed, pot reclassified as nonnarcotic, penalties for possession and sale imposed by the federal Narcotic Control Act of 1956 removed. That, at least, would be a start."

From a November 1970 article by John Kaplan: "Although the present debate over the safety of marijuana is important, the forest of alleged facts should not obscure the question whether or not it should be legalized….The pertinent question here is whether the harm done by a drug approximates the harm done by laws attempting to suppress it….For those who do not appreciate the harm the marijuana laws are doing, misinformation about the drug's dangers makes the resolution of the social policy issue that much more difficult. Exaggerated warnings, rather than convincing people to lay off, feed a growing cynicism about authoritative statements."