New York Times: ‘End the War on Pot’

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director October 28, 2010

    New York Times columnist and two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Nicholas Kristof has an excellent column on the NYT‘s opinion page calling to ‘end the war on pot.’

    End the War on Pot
    via The New York Times

    Our nearly century-long experiment in banning marijuana has failed as abysmally as Prohibition did, and California may now be pioneering a saner approach. Sure, there are risks if California legalizes pot. But our present drug policy has three catastrophic consequences.

    First, it squanders billions of dollars that might be better used for education.

    … Each year, some 750,000 Americans are arrested for possession of small amounts of marijuana. Is that really the optimal use of our police force?

    In contrast, legalizing and taxing marijuana would bring in substantial sums that could be used to pay for schools, libraries or early childhood education. A Harvard economist, Jeffrey A. Miron, calculates that marijuana could generate $8.7 billion in tax revenue each year if legalized nationally, while legalization would also save the same sum annually in enforcement costs.

    That’s a $17 billion swing in the nation’s finances — enough to send every 3- and 4-year-old in a poor family to a high-quality preschool. And that’s an investment that would improve education outcomes and reduce crime and drug use in the future — with enough left over to pay for an extensive nationwide campaign to discourage drug use.

    The second big problem with the drug war is that it has exacerbated poverty and devastated the family structure of African-Americans. Partly that’s because drug laws are enforced inequitably. Black and Latino men are much more likely than whites to be stopped and searched and, when drugs are found, prosecuted.

    Here in Los Angeles, blacks are arrested for marijuana possession at seven times the rate whites are, according to a study by the Drug Policy Alliance, which favors legalization. Yet surveys consistently find that young whites use marijuana at higher rates than young blacks.

    The third problem with our drug policy is that it creates crime and empowers gangs. “The only groups that benefit from continuing to keep marijuana illegal are the violent gangs and cartels that control its distribution and reap immense profits from it through the black market,” a group of current and former police officers, judges and prosecutors wrote last month in an open letter to voters in California.

    I have no illusions about drugs. One of my childhood friends in Yamhill, Ore., pretty much squandered his life by dabbling with marijuana in ninth grade and then moving on to stronger stuff. And yes, there’s some risk that legalization would make such dabbling more common. But that hasn’t been a significant problem in Portugal, which decriminalized drug use in 2001.

    … One advantage of our federal system is that when we have a failed policy, we can grope for improvements by experimenting at the state level. I hope California will lead the way on Tuesday by legalizing marijuana.

    Win or lose, there can be little doubt that Prop. 19 has elevated marijuana legalization to a national, and rational, discussion at the highest and most respected levels of public discourse — as these recent pro-reform editorials from heavy-hitters like The Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, and Financial Times (just to name a few) illustrate.

    For too long, proponents of the status quo — criminal prohibition — have argued that marijuana law reform should be a national issue, not a state issue. Well, if prohibitionists’ want a national debate, it’s clear that we now have one.

    35 responses to “New York Times: ‘End the War on Pot’”

    1. h4x354x0r says:

      I love hammering the “conservatives” on the issue of socialist government interventions creating irrational values for the substance. 95% of the problems blamed on cannabis use are actually caused by the irrational value of the product, which is caused by government intervention.

    2. […] full post on NORML Blog, Marijuana Law Reform Share and […]

    3. Rick says:

      Well said. However, the current and former police, judges and prosecutors gain also through increased funding

    4. claygooding says:

      This is exactly what it takes,national recognition of the harms trying to stop drugs are worse than the drugs
      This will drive the cost of lobbying for a “drug free”
      society more expensive.
      Congress has 4 days to act on any of the numerous bills
      in committee and decriminalize marijuana at the national level to save millions of dollars the DEA is fixing to spend in CA.
      After their continued sticking their heads in the sand,I hope someone keeps a tally of the costs that are incurred by the federal government trying to police CA marijuana users.

    5. wash-voter says:

      Eliminate millions of criminals instantly by voting YES ON 19.

    6. mike says:

      as citizens we must either end the war on our people or start to fight back .we out number and are armed better they better begin listning to the voters

    7. Freedomsomeday says:

      Good news folks!


      WASHINGTON, D.C. — While California’s marijuana ballot initiative is garnering a lot of attention this election cycle, Gallup finds that nationally, a new high of 46% of Americans are in favor of legalizing use of the drug, and a new low of 50% are opposed.

      Also, whats up with the chamber of commerce spending huge amounts of money against prop 19? I thought they supported business. Sounds like they have some dealings with cartels in mexico.

    8. hippie dude says:

      right on!! complete truth ..the time is now to legalize !! there is no more war !! VOTE YES TO PROP 19!!

    9. weweed says:

      California here I come ,right back where I started from ,where bowers of flowers bloom in the sun , a sun kissed miss said don’t be late, that’s why I can hardly wait ,open up that golden gate,California here I come ! YES ON prop 19 ! Thank you !

    10. Wow says:

      NORML I just checked and the last 5 polls that were conducted show Proposition 19 losing. Do you think it’s rigged?

      [Editor’s note: Elections and polls are not rigged in America…generally speaking…and in most every pro-reform cannabis initiative the pro-side loses five to eight points from the time the campaign is announced until election day. Typically, these campaigns launch when polling consistently demonstrates 58% support or more. What was the percentage of CA citizens who supported ‘legalization’ when the campaign launched at the beginning of the year? Approximately 56%.

      Even if Prop. 19 were to lose by a few percentage points, it will be by many measures the most successful and cost-effective cannabis legalization project ever as the percentage of Americans who now support legalization has risen as the largest state in the nation kick-started a much needed discussion on alternatives to Cannabis Prohibition; more coalitions of diverse groups have resulted already–from unions to minorities to a new crop of high-tech billionaires; the last remaining groups who oppose cannabis law reform and their arguments have been exposed and vetted; the reform was funded by stakeholders and a cannabusiness entrepreneur on the ground (not a billionaire through a chosen, and often elite conduit); most of the editorials and columnists who oppose Prop 19 largely concede the failure of Prohibition and the need to reform the laws, while not liking Prop 19 as the reform vehicle.

      All of this, with a near 50% real voting total, is quite a base from which to build upon for another initiative, if need be, in 2012.

      Cannabis law reformers are not going away, but Cannabis Prohibition will, sooner than later because of the efforts this election cycle in CA in support of Prop 19 and legalization.]