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July 28, 2014 at 6:05 AM

New York Times joins Seattle Times in calling for marijuana legalization

Update, 4:35 p.m., July 29: On Monday, David Firestone, on the New York Times Taking Note blog, gave a nod to The Seattle Times editorial board for calling for marijuana legalization in 2011. He was writing about the timing of editorials in influencing policy issues.

The conclusion:

We’re glad to have joined The Seattle Times and other newspapers that have come out in favor of legalization or decriminalization. The hollering is only beginning.

Original post:

In its Sunday editorial, The New York Times editorial board called for the repeal of the federal prohibition on marijuana, adding an important national voice to the movement being led by Washington and Colorado. A series of editorials on the topic  will run through the week. In the clip above, NYT Editorial Page Editor Andy Rosenthal explains the board’s decision, noting that his staff has been watching what has been going on in Washington and Colorado and the many states that have legalized medical marijuana or reduced penalties. The lead editorial reads:

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.

This is a significant development. Washington and Colorado, as the only states to legalize the recreational use of marijuana, have been making the case that the federal government should not stand in the way of the states’ efforts to make these changes work. The conflicts between federal and state law remain serious. For instance, it was unclear whether marijuana businesses would be able to get services from a federally insured bank. In February, the federal government issued rules to encourage banks to provide banking services to marijuana businesses in Washington and Colorado. How this rolls out remains to be seen.

And, in a May 4 editorial, The Seattle Times called for the U.S. Justice Department to give the agency that regulates dams in Eastern Washington’s Columbia Basin Project the go-ahead to allow its water to be used on cannabis crops.

The  New York Times editorial board adding its influential voice to the national debate will be a boost for this movement led by the states.

The NYT’s reasoning mirrors that of The Seattle Times editorial board when it published a February 2011 editorial calling for the legalization of marijuana. Retired Seattle editorial columnist Bruce Ramsey famously wrote about smoking dope on a camping trip for The Seattle Times Opinion pages three years before NYT columnist Maureen Dowd wrote about trying a candy bar made with cannabis on a research trip to Colorado.

Ramsey and colleague Jonathan Martin recently were honored for their editorials recommending solutions for the state-federal conflict with the Sigma Delta Chi award for editorial writing.

Comments | More in Video | Topics: marijuana legalization, New York Times editorial board, Seattle Times editorial board


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