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.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
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Reuters | Posted: 11/15/2012
In this Oct. 25, 2012 photo, soldiers stand in a marijuana plantation found during a reconnaissance mission before burning the plants near the town of Lombardia in Michoacan state, Mexico. (AP Photo/Alexandre Meneghini)
By Noe Torres
MEXICO CITY, Nov 15 (Reuters) – A leftist Mexican lawmaker on Thursday presented a bill to legalize the production, sale and use of marijuana, adding to a growing chorus of Latin American politicians who are rejecting the prohibitionist policies of the United States.
The bill is unlikely to win much support in Congress since a strong majority of Mexicans are firmly against legalizing drugs, but may spur a broader debate in Mexico after two U.S. states voted to allow recreational use of marijuana last week. U.S. officials have said it remains illegal and that they are reviewing the state actions.
The split between local and federal governments in the United States is feeding a growing challenge in Latin America to the four-decade-old policies that Washington promoted, and often bankrolled, to disrupt illegal drug cultivation and smuggling.
"The prohibitionist paradigm is a complete failure," said Fernando Belaunzaran, the author of the bill from the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), who presented the proposal in Mexico’s lower house of Congress.
"All this has done is spur more violence, the business continues. The country that has paid the highest costs is Mexico," he said in a telephone interview.
A conflict between drug gangs and security forces has killed more than 60,000 people during the six-year rule of outgoing President Felipe Calderon, who has repeatedly demanded the United States to do more to curb demand for illegal drugs.
Frustration with U.S. policy deepened after voters in Washington state and Colorado approved the recreational use of marijuana.
Still, there is little popular support for marijuana legalization in Mexico. Recent polls show two-thirds or more of Mexicans are opposed to making it legal. Several other bills to legalize the drug have been rejected in recent years.
Mexican leftists form the second biggest bloc in the lower house, behind the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) that won the presidency in an election in July. The leftist coalition has more seats than Calderon’s conservatives.
"It is important to open the debate, but I do not think this will advance," said political analyst Fernando Dworak. "In reality, it is just not part of the legislative agenda."
Across Latin America, there is a growing view that Washington’s "war on drugs" is not working.
Uruguay’s government submitted a legalization bill to Congress this week that would put the state in charge of marijuana cultivation and distribution, while also allowing for individuals to grow plants at home.
In September, Calderon and the leaders of Colombia and Guatemala – historically three of the most reliable U.S. partners on drug interdiction – called on world governments to explore new alternatives to the problem.
The chief advisor of incoming President Enrique Pena Nieto, Luis Videgaray, said last week that the votes in Washington and Colorado mean Mexico must rethink its approach to the trade, though he said Pena Nieto was opposed to legalization of drugs.
Last week, the governor of Chihuahua, one of the Mexican states worst hit by drugs violence, told Reuters Mexico should legalize export of marijuana. The governor, Cesar Duarte, is an ally of Pena Nieto, who takes office on Dec. 1. (Additional reporting by Michael O’Boyle; Editing by Jackie Frank)