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New York Times: End the Federal War on Marijuana

in Criminal Justice, Drugs, Liberator Online, Libertarian Stances on Issues by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the Intellectual Ammunition section in Volume 19, No. 12 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

In a major and historic breakthrough for libertarians and other advocates of marijuana re-"Repeal Prohibition, Again" in the New York Timeslegalization, the New York Times editorial board has called for ending the federal war on marijuana.

Here are excerpts from the July 27 editorial, entitled “Repeal Prohibition, Again”:

“It took 13 years for the United States to come to its senses and end [alcohol] 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. …

“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. …

“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. …

“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. …

“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.”

The Times followed with a six-part series on marijuana legalization, which can be found under the text of their editorial.

Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance,commented on the groundbreaking editorial:

“This is of historic consequence — far bigger than most people assume. Some people in the country may perceive the Times editorial page as a liberal organ, but they should know that on this issue they’ve been cautious to a fault, even conservative. So for them to write what they did, at this juncture, demonstrated intellectual and moral clarity as well as courage.”

It should also be noted that what the New York Times is calling for is what the Libertarian Party and Ron Paul in his presidential campaigns called for — many years earlier.

Reason Poll: Only Six Percent of Americans Think Marijuana Possession Should Be Punished With Jail Time

in Liberator Online by James W. Harris Comments are off

Marijuana Possession Punishable with Jail Time?That’s right: only six percent of Americans think minor marijuana possession should be punishable by jail time.

Further, a strong plurality of Americans think the use or possession of small amounts of marijuana should not be punishable… at all.

These astonishing results, unimaginable just a few years ago, are from a new Reason-Rupe poll conducted May 9-13. They show how rapidly support for ending the despotic War on Marijuana is growing. (The Reason-Rupe polls are a project of the Reason Foundation and funded by the Arthur N. Rupe Foundation.)

The nationwide telephone poll of 1,003 people asked: “Which approach do you think government and law enforcement should take toward someone found smoking marijuana or in possession of a small amount of marijuana?”

Only six percent of respondents said possession should be punishable with jail.

Twenty percent said it should result in mandatory substance abuse counseling.

Thirty-two percent said users should incur a fine, not jail.

Fully 35 percent of respondents said people caught with small amounts of marijuana should not be punished at all.

As Reason magazine notes, “The Reason-Rupe poll is one of the few instances — possibly the first — in which the usual polling dichotomies of incarceration versus treatment and criminal penalty versus civil penalty have been expanded to include no penalty whatsoever.

“The results suggest that Americans are comfortable with the idea of decriminalization — which reduces the penalty for minor marijuana possession to a civil fine — and more sympathetic than ever to the idea of fully legalizing possession.”

In addition, the poll found a majority of Americans support the right of states to legalize marijuana. Specifically, 52 percent would support legislation to “prevent the federal government from prosecuting people who grow, possess, or sell marijuana in the states that have legalized it.”