With fanfare, and a press release, The New York Times shook up the marijuana legalization debate. It seems Maureen Dowd’s pot cookie horror story failed to scare-off her colleagues because on July 26, 2014, The New York Times released part one of an editorial series that empathically supports the legalization of marijuana.
Titled “Repeal Prohibition, Again” the Times’ editorial wasted no time cutting to the heart of the matter and lucidly summed up the failed promise that is prohibition in one sentence: “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.”
The rest of the editorial walks in familiar territory and covers arguments often used by cannabis apologists, but rarely listened to by the general public. According to FBI crime statistics, there are 658,000 marijuana related arrests a year, which is almost three times the number of arrests for other drugs.
The editorial argues that the social cost of marijuana prohibition is too high considering the fact that there is little if any notable adverse public health impact from marijuana, not to mention the fact that out of all the marijuana arrests made in a given year, a disproportionate amount of those arrested are young African-American males.
The reaction around the internet is more or less what you would expect. Some papers simply reported the news, other organizations declared “Finally,” and then some made laughably poor rebuttals. While the public as a whole remains unphased by the Gray Lady’s endorsement, its editorial is not meant for the public at large. The New York Times’ endorsement is meant for the skeptics still lurking about and for the politicians too squeamish to vote their conscience.
It is doubtful that this series of editorials published by The New York Times will directly lead to cannabis reform; however, cannabis has indirectly scored a huge victory. With The Times’ endorsement, cannabis gains a huge boost in legitimacy. Sure, the gains by cannabis in Colorado and Washington help, but it is nothing like an endorsement from one of the most respected newspapers in the country.
Where once cannabis only had renegades, rebels, and revolutionaries in its corner; now, there are respected journalists, politicians, and investors on its side. This series of editorials published by The New York Times may not change legislation tomorrow, but it does mark a historic turning point in the legalized marijuana industry.