The Grey Lady Endorses Legal Weed

Over the weekend, the NYT editorial board declared that the “federal government should repeal the ban on marijuana”:

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.

Well, now that Sarah Palin has picked the online subscription route and the NYT has embraced marijuana legalization, our work here at the Dish is nearly done. But sheesh, the whole hoop-la over there about it almost makes you think they’re ahead of the curve, as opposed to about twenty years too late. Almost twenty years since National Review endorsed it! Nonetheless, it’s not nothing:

It is worth noting this is the exact same way alcohol prohibition ended. The 21st amendment gave states the power to decide how alcohol is treated within their borders. While many states ended their own alcohol prohibitions right after some states keep their bans on alcohol going for years and even decades later. It wasn’t until 1966 when Mississippi become the last state to end its prohibition.

Hamilton Nolan needles the Times for being behind the times:

The only reason the Times gets attention for expressing this opinion is because it is the Times. This is not thought leadership. It is thought following. The Times’ endorsement of legal weed is remarkable not because we look to the Times for new or thought-provoking opinions, but because the Times is such a self-conscious, careerist, and cautious institution that if they want to legalize drugs, you know that shit is really mainstream now. It is the same sort of importance that you would attach to the Republican Party endorsing the legalization of marijuana.

Yep, there has been a sea change:

There is a shift going on in this debate, and it isn’t just that mainstream politicians and newspapers can now support legalization. It’s also that the central question of the debate has changed, and changed to what legalization advocates have been asking for a long time. Instead of asking “Is smoking marijuana good or bad?”, we’re now asking “Is marijuana prohibition better or worse than the alternative?”

The latter question doesn’t lend itself as easily to scare tactics or “This is your brain on drugs” rhetoric. And don’t get me wrong—the effect of marijuana on individuals is something we should keep talking about and researching. … But the policy debate should be about, well, policy. And policy is always about choices.

Mark Kleiman, as is his wont, wishes for a different sort of cannabis legalization:

As a matter of practical politics, our only choices may be a badly-implemented prohibition or a badly-implemented legalization.  (If so, I’m inclined to try the Devil I don’t know.)  So far, my attempts to put political and organizational muscle behind the idea of smart legalization have merely illustrated the wisdom of Ralph Yarborough’s maxim, “They ain’t nuthin’ in the middle of the road but yaller lines and dead armadillas.”  I don’t find life as political roadkill especially uncomfortable, but it does get frustrating. It’s not just that continued prohibition and commercial legalization are both bad ideas; it’s that the arguments for those two bad ideas leave no media space, or mindspace, for discussion of the good ideas that might lie between them.