Today, The New York Times published an editorial calling for a halt to all marijuana prosecutions in New York City, following the release of a study showing that racial disparities in arrests persist, despite the recent city efforts to alleviate the problem.
New York City was scaling back its stop-and-frisk program even before a federal judge ruled in 2013 that the tactics underlying it violated the constitutional rights of minority citizens. It’s hard not to look at marijuana arrests today without thinking of that saga. Although the city has reduced the number of arrests for low-level marijuana possession, black and Latino New Yorkers are far more likely to be arrested for smoking in public than whites, who are just as likely to use marijuana.
These arrests have virtually no public safety benefit and can cause lasting damage to people who often have had no other contact with the criminal justice system. Charges are typically dismissed if people stay out of trouble for a year, but in that period, they can be denied jobs, housing and entry into the armed services.
The city needs to do more to minimize arrests. District attorneys can take the lead by refusing to prosecute most, if not all, of these cases.
You can read the full editorial here.
The West Virginia Legislature failed to reform its marijuana policies in the 2015-2016 legislative session, primarily because House Speaker Tim Armstead continues to oppose even the most modest, incremental reforms. Fortunately, now that a special session has been called, five delegates have decided this is an opportunity to raise the issue of marijuana legalization. Del. Mike Pushkin (D-Charleston) and a bipartisan group of four co-sponsors have introduced HB 114, which would make marijuana legal on a limited basis in West Virginia.
The Charleston Gazette-Mail published an editorial praising these legislators' efforts, calling legalization an "excellent idea." The Gazette-Mail noted that the bill "has no chance" of passing in the special session, but it still presents an important opportunity to raise the issue with elected officials.
If you are a West Virginia resident, please take a moment to contact your delegates and senators today and urge them to consider the benefits of ending marijuana prohibition.
Continuing its support for sensible marijuana policies, The New York Times published an editorial Thursday asking Congress and the president to support a bill, introduced this week by Sen. Bernie Sanders, that would allow states to determine their own marijuana laws.
Support for making marijuana legal is increasing around the world, and that is a good thing. Earlier this week, the Mexican Supreme Court opened the door to legalizing the drug by giving four plaintiffs the right to grow cannabis for personal use.
In Canada, the newly sworn in prime minister, Justin Trudeau, has said he intends to change the law so people can use the drug recreationally; medicinal use is already legal in that country. And in the United States, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for president, recently introduced a bill that would let states decide if they want to make the drug legal without worrying about violating federal law.
Laws banning the growing, distribution and possession of marijuana have caused tremendous damage to society, with billions spent on imprisoning people for violating pointlessly harsh laws. Yet research shows that marijuana is far less harmful than alcohol and tobacco, and can be used to treat medical conditions like chronic pain.
What’s needed now is responsible leadership from President Obama and Congress. They ought to seriously consider the kind of legislation Mr. Sanders has proposed.
On Saturday, The New York Times repeated its editorial support for ending marijuana prohibition, this time calling on Congress and President Obama to be less timid in their support for regulating marijuana.
Even as support for ending marijuana prohibition is building around the country, Congress and the Obama administration remain far too timid about the need for change.
Last year, residents in Alaska, Oregon and the District of Columbia voted to join Colorado and Washington State in making recreational use of marijuana legal. Later this year, residents of Ohio are expected to vote on a ballot measure that would legalize it. Nevadans will vote on a legalization proposal next year. And Californians could vote on several similar measures next year.
Instead of standing by as change sweeps the country, federal lawmakers should be more actively debating and changing the nation’s absurd marijuana policies, policies that have ruined millions of lives and wasted billions of dollars.
You can read the full editorial here.
In July 2014, the paper of record published a series of editorials covering a variety of marijuana policy issues and supporting making marijuana legal for adults and regulating it similarly to alcohol.
Over the weekend, one of the most popular newspapers in Oregon lent its support to Measure 91, which would make marijuana legal for adults in the state. Voters will decide on the initiative in November.
From The Oregonian:
Measure 91 would move Oregon from a hazy condition of almost-legalization to one of rational access guided by straightforward regulations and subject to sensible taxation. In other words, it would force Oregon's 16-year-old marijuana experiment out of adolescence and into legal adulthood. The measure appropriately leaves the task of regulating the new industry to the Oregon Liquor Control Commission, which knows a thing or two about the distribution and sale of intoxicants. The OLCC would adopt the necessary rules by 2016.
Measure 91, far from revolutionary, would simply allow Oregon adults to obtain something they may obtain now, but without having to stroll through a "medical" loophole or drive over a bridge to a neighboring state. The measure would be worth supporting for reasons of honesty and convenience alone, but it also would raise millions of dollars per year for schools and other purposes. For that reason, it deserves support even from those who aren't normally high on taxes.
While we would not characterize the Oregon medical marijuana program as anything other than a success that has provided thousands of patients out of jail, this is certainly a strong statement of support that will hopefully be heeded by voters in November.
In the lead-up to the Super Bowl, in which it so happens both teams hail from states that recently legalized marijuana for recreational purposes, pressure is mounting on the league to reconsider its ban. A group called the Marijuana Policy Project has even bought space on five billboards in New Jersey, where the game will take place on Sunday, asking why the league disallows a substance that, the group says, is less harmful than alcohol.
It’s a fair question. Marijuana isn’t a performance-enhancing drug, for starters, and more than 20 states have legalized it for medical purposes. The league would merely be catching up to contemporary practice by creating a medical exception.
As public opinion and state laws move away from strict prohibition, it’s reasonable for the NFL to do the same and let its players deal with their injuries as they — and their private doctors — see fit.
Last Sunday’s Washington Post included an editorial supporting civil fines for marijuana use, particularly in D.C. The article comes after a similar proposal to the D.C. Council and support from Mayor Vincent Gray. The proposal would remove criminal penalties associated with possession of up to one ounce of marijuana and replace them with a civil fine. After considering public opinion polls, a report by the ACLU, and criminal justice statistics, the Post agrees: possessing marijuana should not make you a criminal.
An all-around better policy, long championed by District lawyer Paul Zukerberg, would be to slap small-time users with a civil fine, which is a measured way to send a message that the government does not condone or tolerate marijuana use. No one’s life would be permanently marred by getting caught with a joint.
Of all the official reactions to changing mores on marijuana, decriminalization is the best.
While we know that simple decriminalization will not solve the problems caused by keeping the marijuana market illegal, the fact that such a major newspaper is coming around is a sure sign of progress.
Last week was very eventful for marijuana policy reform. The Oregon Senate approved a bill granting PTSD sufferers access to medical marijuana, the Vermont House passed a bill to remove criminal penalties for marijuana possession, and, in a victory that was years in the making, the Illinois House voted in favor of medical marijuana legislation.
The passing of House Bill 1 in Illinois is an example of public education at its finest. News organizations across the state set space aside to show their support for medical marijuana without reluctance.
Editorials in the Chicago Tribune, the Chicago Sun-Times, and the Journal-Standard described the drug’s ability to alleviate suffering, and they also clearly addressed the bill’s strict guidelines to ease the fears of any hesitant readers.
Editorials like those composed in Illinois and other states such as Maine provide readers with a great service, and they can make all the difference in garnering support for marijuana policy reform.
This past Sunday, New Hampshire’s Sentinel Source positively highlighted the state’s proposed medical marijuana legislation, House Bill 573. The editorial board points out that the “well-crafted,” 30-page bill removes the ambiguities with which reform opponents often take issue. The proposal stipulates that prior to receiving a medical marijuana recommendation, qualifying patients must first try other forms of relief, and it sets strict rules about the financial relationships between recommending doctors and treatment centers, the total of which is capped at five. From the Sentinel:
In recent years, 18 states have authorized the use of marijuana for medical purposes, principally for palliative care for dreadfully painful conditions, and nine more are now considering such a move. New Hampshire is in this latter group with House Bill 573, a piece of legislation that is carefully drawn and deserving of support.
This support was echoed on Monday by the Nashua Telegraph, another prominent New Hampshire newspaper:
Arguments against medical marijuana are reasonable and legitimate, but they miss the point that the legislation is about easing the suffering of thousands of New Hampshire residents for which the alternatives aren’t viable. When the risks are weighed against the benefits, legalizing medical marijuana is in the best interests of New Hampshire and its citizens.
[caption id="attachment_5929" align="alignleft" width="270"] Clayton Holton, 27, who suffers from muscular dystrophy, testified at a New Hampshire medical marijuana hearing last week. (Photo - Nashua Telegraph)[/caption]
MPP would like to thank these publications for supporting this compassionate legislation. It is time for New Hampshire to join the rest of New England and allow patients like Clayton Holton to use the medicine that works best for them. Many of them cannot afford to wait. UPDATE: The Concord Monitor has joined the newspapers above in support for medical marijuana in New Hampshire.