The New York Times sounded like the voice of reason last week with a detailed and convincing six-part editorial series calling for the federal government to legalize marijuana.

Repealing the 1970 ban, the Grey Lady's editors argued, is a states' rights issue and would ease the unjust application of marijuana enforcement. Science is on the side of marijuana legalization, the paper said, showing that it's less harmful than alcohol or tobacco. Plus, the public is coming around on marijuana and Colorado and Washington are showing how legalization — and proper regulation — can be achieved.

The whole package is well researched and put together, down to the animation of stars on the American flag turning into weed leaves. It's worth looking up online.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the White House refuted the Times editorial, writing that while the administration agreed that the criminal justice system needs reform, "marijuana legalization is not the silver bullet solution to the issue."

"The Obama Administration approaches substance use as a public health issue, not merely a criminal justice problem," wrote staff of the Office of National Drug Control Policy.

That's an admirable approach. The right approach. And while the White House is wise in its concerns about legalization (citing that marijuana use affects the developing brain, affects academic achievement, can be addictive, and is dangerous for roadways), its complaints about rising costs to public health sound hollow in the face of potential savings from the costs of incarcerating marijuana offenders.

"The cost to society of alcohol alone is estimated to be more than 15 times the revenue gained by its taxation," the administration writes. Perhaps, but the point of legalization isn't simply to collect taxes on the sale of the product. It's to ease the immense social and financial costs of the prison industrial complex and to dismantle the black market (which has huge public health and safety costs).

"Any discussion on the issue should be guided by science and evidence, not ideology and wishful thinking," the response goes on. "The Obama Administration continues to oppose legalization of marijuana and other illegal drugs because it flies in the face of a public health approach to reducing drug use and its consequences."

But where is that public health approach to drug abuse manifesting itself? California's prisons are full, and the evidence of underserved and underfunded drug addiction programs paces the streets everywhere. Talk about ideology and wishful thinking.

Add a comment