NY Times goes pro-pot

marijuana marlboroWe’ve always argued that no one should go to jail for possession of marijuana and I agree that it makes sense for the federal government to step out of the way of states that want to try another path. The NY Times editorial board comes out in favor of marijuana legalization.

I’m ambivalent about full legalization and worry about the effects of unleashing capitalism on marijuana. (This is where people point to alcohol and I respond, “Yeah, look at alcohol–it’s a celebrated drug in the culture with huge public health challenges and a powerful lobby.)

In the midst of all this skepticism about the possibility of an effective prohibition policy, a couple of sentences lept out at me.

There are legitimate concerns about marijuana on the development of adolescent brains. For that reason, we advocate the prohibition of sales to people under 21.

Seems like there’s a little dissonance there, no? (On second thought, I’m convinced that an absence of dissonance is a sure sign of someone who is ideological or isn’t very serious about the matter. I guess the key is to be aware of your dissonance.)

In any case, everyone’s a critic of the status quo. The real question is how to implement policy change, whether it’s full legalization or some option short of that. This will separate the critics from the more serious thinkers on the issue.

I’ve said it many times here. There is no such thing as a problem-free drug policy. The reality is that we have to choose which problems we’re willing to live with and which problems we can’t tolerate and then craft a policy around those values.

We seem to have decided that we’re willing to live with marijuana use by adults but we’re not willing to live with incarcerating large numbers of people for using it and we don’t want young people using it heavily. There are a lot of policy options to fit those criteria.