The New York Times editorial board is calling for the repeal of the prohibition against pot, and its stance had all the talking heads yapping yesterday. Times editorial page editor Andrew Rosenthal went on ABC's This Week yesterday morning to discuss the "High Times" series, and host Jon Karl asked whether he'd ever smoked pot. "I've never asked the people that work for me whether they smoke pot, and I'm not going to ask," Rosenthal responded. "I have smoked pot in my life. I went to college in Colorado in the 1970′s, you figure it out." Specifically, Rosenthal went to the University of Denver, graduating with a BA in American history in 1978.
While he was at DU, Rosenthal worked as a sports stringer for the Associated Press and as a part-time police reporter for the now-defunctRocky Mountain News
. He joined the Times in 1987, and became the editorial page editor in 2006. He was back at DU in 2010, to speak at the annual alumni symposium -- about politics, not pot.
But that's what he'll be talking about at 2:20 p.m. today (that's 4:20 Eastern Standard Time!), when Rosenthal will be taking questions about marijuana legalization and the "High Times" editorial package on the paper's Facebook page.
Here's the initial Times editorial:
Repeal Prohibition, Again
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, inflicting 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 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 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 "Reefer Madness" 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.
Keep reading for more on the New York Times and its coverage of marijuana. The Times editorial series represents a major switch from the dopey column Maureen Dowd wrote for the paper last month, detailing her negative experience with pot edibles. And also on the talking-head shows yesterday, columnist David Brooks said that he didn't agree with the "High Times" series.
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In addition to the lead editorial, yesterday the Times published a companion piece, "Let States Decide on Marijuana." In it, the Times says that consuming marijuana "is a choice that states should be allowed to make based on their culture and their values."
"it's not surprising that the early adopters would be socially liberal states like Colorado and Washington, while others hang back to gauge the results," the Times says. But in being first, Colorado is at odds with federal law. For example, this state allows the largest marijuana stores to cultivate up to 10,200 cannabis plants at a time, when the federal penalty for growing more than 1,000 plants is a minimum of ten years in prison and a fine of up to $10 million. "That has created a state of confusion in which law-abiding growers in Colorado can face federal penalties," the Times notes.
Last August, the Justice Department issued a memo saying it would not interfere with the legalization plans of Colorado and Washington as long as they met several conditions -- but federal prosecutors can ignore it "if state enforcement efforts are not sufficiently robust," the memo says.
The Times package also includes a piece titled "The Public Lightens Up About Weed," which shows how quickly opinion is shifting regarding legalization. Have a tip? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.