The political and cultural victories for the marijuana legalization movement continue to accumulate as new developments lead us closer to the ultimate goal of full legalization. Just in the last couple of weeks, we’ve seen the powerful, unambiguous endorsement of full legalization by the most influential newspaper in America: The New York Times.
That endorsement was followed by a series of six follow-up editorials explaining in more detail precisely why the Times decided to join the fight to end prohibition. Additionally, The Brookings Institution, a highly respected Washington, DC think tank, published a very favorable report card on the first six months of the legal sales of marijuana in Colorado.
These were both significant events, because they involved respected institutions known for their careful and thorough analysis of important public policy issues. Neither has a history of backing a pro-pot agenda, so their support both elevates the issue and makes a strong argument for regulation.
Dear NORML members and supporters,
It is nearly impossible to detect the precise moment when support for a change in social policy reaches the "tipping point", but for the marijuana legalization movement, that time was likely July 26, 2014, when the editorial board of the New York Times published their editorial entitled Repeal Prohibition, Again.
For those who may have missed it, here an excerpt; it is one of the strongest endorsements I have ever read.
"The federal government should repeal the ban on marijuana." …
"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."…
"it is long past time to repeal this version of Prohibition."
And that is only beginning. The Times editors, with whom NORML’s staff and board have been assisting for some time, are now publishing additional editorials, dealing with different aspects of marijuana legalization on a daily basis. The editors of America’s most influential newspaper have not just changed their position; they are now determined to lead the change from marijuana prohibition to legalization.
Their new position on marijuana policy reflects a gradually evolving perspective, going back to 1966, when the paper warned readers that marijuana "for a considerable number of young people who try it, it is the first step down the fateful road to heroin."
By 1969, they were calling for some "distinction between soft and hard drugs," and by 1972, with the release of the Marijuana Commission report, the Times acknowledged "the dangers inherent in smoking marijuana appear to be less than previously assumed," and called for the elimination of penalties for possession and use.
But it was not until early 2014 that they heralded the opening of the first licensed marijuana shops in Colorado, noting that the experiences in Colorado and Washington "will serve as test cases for full-on legalization."
And now they have taken the crucial, final step to endorse full legalization for all adults, the position NORML has advanced since 1970.
New York Times
- 1966 – "for a considerable number of young people who try it, it is the first step down the fateful road to heroin."
- 1969 – "distinction between soft and hard drugs,"
- 1972 – "the dangers inherent in smoking marijuana appear to be less than previously assumed,"
- 2014 – "The federal government should repeal the ban on marijuana."
So we trust you will understand if, to those of us at NORML, who have been fighting for full legalization for 44 years, we see this latest endorsement by the New York Times as the unofficial tipping-point for legalization.
Sure, there remains a great deal of work to move legalization forward in the remaining 48 states. But with the favorable reviews coming out of Colorado and Washington, and with the national polling demonstrating that we currently enjoy the support of between 53% and 58% of the American public, we think it is fair to say we have turned the corner politically, and victory will be ours within just a few years.
And that is why we are writing today, to ask that you please make a generous contribution to NORML so we can expand our lobbying activities, and media and educational outreach efforts so that we can continue to build on this momentum. Without question, we are finally winning this struggle, but nevertheless marijuana arrests continue unabated in most states today, and seriously ill patients still do not have access to medical marijuana in more than half of the states.
Let us take a well-deserved moment to celebrate the enormous progress we have made, but then let’s get back to work to stop the senseless arrests of marijuana consumers. We must stop destroying the lives and careers of so many otherwise law-abiding citizens, simply because they prefer to use marijuana when they relax in the evening, just as tens of millions of Americans enjoy a beer or a glass of wine at the end of the day. And we need to put in place regulations for licensed marijuana growers and sellers, to bring the black market above ground.
NORML was the first marijuana legalization lobby in America–with over 1.5 million supporters and members we’ve been the voice for marijuana consumers now for more than four decades.
Please make a tax-deductible donation to NORML Foundation (for public education and mass communications) and/or a regular charitable donation to NORML (in support of our direct lobbying and other political activities).
With your generous support, we can continue to lead the charge for full legalization, both state and federal, all across this country.
NORML Founder and Legal Counsel
As an old farm boy, it has always seemed strange to me that most states, and the federal government, treat someone who grows a few marijuana plants for personal use as a more serious offender than someone who buys cannabis from the black market. In practice, by penalizing personal cultivation, the government encourages a thriving black market with absolutely no controls over age, potency or purity. At least if one grows their own marijuana, they can be assured it includes no pesticide residue or other harmful additives. This is an arbitrary policy that has absolutely no basis in public safety.
But marijuana prohibition has never been a rational policy, and this bias against home cultivation is just another example of that principle.
At NORML, we have always supported the right of individuals to grow their own marijuana, as a logical option compared to purchasing it from licensed dispensaries. On one hand, growing your own just makes common sense. We can brew up to 100 gallons of home-brew beer in our basements under current law, even if very few Americans actually make their own beer. The same should be true for cultivating our own marijuana.
The passage of state laws legalizing the physician-recommended possession and consumption of cannabis by qualified patients has not led to an increase in adolescents’ use of the plant, according to a working paper published by the National Bureau of Economic Research – a non-partisan research organization based in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Investigators from the University of Colorado at Denver, the University of Oregon, and Montana State University assessed federal data on youth marijuana use and treatment episodes for the years 1993 to 2011 – a time period when 16 states authorized medical cannabis use.
Authors reported, “Our results are not consistent with the hypothesis that the legalization of medical marijuana caused an increase in the use of marijuana among high school students. In fact, estimates from our preferred specification are small, consistently negative, and are never statistically distinguishable from zero.”
A separate analysis published in April in the Journal of Adolescent Health similarly determined, “This study did not find increases in adolescent marijuana use related to legalization of medical marijuana. … This suggests that concerns about ‘sending the wrong message’ may have been overblown.”
Full text of the study, “Medical marijuana laws and teen marijuana use,” is available online here.
Law enforcement in many states are making a greater number of marijuana arrests than ever before despite polling data showing that the majority of Americans believe that the adult use of the plant ought to be legal.
According to a just published report, “Marijuana in the States 2012: Analysis and Detailed Data on Marijuana Use and Arrests,” which appears on the newly launched RegulatingCannabis.com website, police made an estimated 750,000 arrests for marijuana violations in 2012 – a 110 percent increase in annual arrests since 1991. Yet, despite this doubling in annual marijuana arrests over the past two decades, there has not been any significant reduction in marijuana consumption in the United States the report found.
In 2012, marijuana arrests accounted for almost half (48.3 percent) of all drug arrests nationwide. Marijuana arrests accounted for two-thirds of more of all drug arrests in five states: Nebraska (74.1 percent), New Hampshire (72 percent), Montana (70.3 percent), Wyoming (68.7 percent) and Wisconsin (67.1 percent).
From 2008 to 2012, seventeen state-level jurisdictions experienced an average annual increase in marijuana arrests, the report found. South Carolina (11.6 percent) and the District of Columbia (7.7 percent) experienced the highest overall percentage increase in arrests during this time period. By contrast, annual marijuana arrests fell nationwide by an average of 3.3 percent from 2008 to 2012.
Overall, the study reported that the five state-level jurisdictions possessing the highest arrest rates for marijuana offenses are the District to Columbia (729 arrests per 100,000 citizens), New York (577), Louisiana (451), Illinois (447) and Nebraska (421). District of Columbia lawmakers decriminalized the adult possession of marijuana earlier this month.
The two states possessing the lowest marijuana arrest rates are California and Massachusetts, the report found. Both states decriminalized marijuana possession offenses in recent years.
Stated the report’s author, Shenondoah University professor Jon Gettman, “After a generation of marijuana arrests, nearly 19 million and counting since 1981, the results are that marijuana remains widely used, not perceived as risky by a majority of the population, and widely available. The tremendous variance in use and arrests at the state level demonstrate why marijuana prohibition has failed and is not a viable national policy.”