Historic NYT Editorial: Feds Should Legalize Marijuana Pronto

Way to get with the times, Times.


Haxorjoe / Wikimedia Commons

The New York Times editorial board demanded the end of the federal government's marijuana ban in an editorial published Saturday. That editorial, titled "Repeal Prohibition, Again," notes that most states are rightly moving away from vigorous prosecution of drug crimes and asks the feds to follow suit:

The federal government should repeal the ban on marijuana.

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

There are no perfect answers to people's legitimate concerns about marijuana use. But neither are there such answers about tobacco or alcohol, and we believe that on every level — health effects, the impact on society and law-and-order issues — 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 — 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 editorial's endorsement of legalization is qualified in some respects, since it does recommend that the sale of marijuana be limited to people over the age of 21:

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.

Still, it's a step in the right direction—albeit one that libertarians have advocated for decades. If anything, it's another clear sign that libertarianism is winning.

Way to get with the times, Times.