On Sunday the New York Times, through an article by their Editorial Board, officially endorsed initiatives to legalize cannabis in Oregon, Alaska and Washington D.C., all three of which will be voted on this November 4th.
“In 2012, Washington State and Colorado legalized recreational marijuana. This November, voters in Alaska, Oregon and the District of Columbia will decide whether to do the same — effectively disregarding the misguided federal ban on a drug that is far less dangerous than alcohol.”, reads the endorsement article. “Decades of arresting people for buying, selling and using marijuana have hurt more than helped society, and minority communities have been disproportionately affected by the harsh criminal penalties of prohibition.”
According to the Times; “Since Alaska, Oregon and the District of Columbia already allow medical marijuana, taking the next step makes good sense. There are some differences in their proposed initiatives, but they are all worthy of passage.”
They then go on to give a quick description of each initiative:
ALASKA Ballot Measure 2 would make the use and purchase of marijuana legal for those 21 and older, create a marijuana control board and tax the drug at $50 per ounce wholesale. It is already legal for Alaskans to possess small amounts of marijuana in their homes, and surveys indicate that 18 percent of Alaskans smoke marijuana. Ballot Measure 2 would mean that Alaskans could buy it from a store instead of resorting to the black market.
OREGON Measure 91 would also set a minimum age of 21. It would give the Oregon Liquor Control Commission the power to regulate marijuana as it does alcohol, and would direct it to review tax rates regularly. The tax — initially set at $35 per ounce for flowers and $10 per ounce for leaves — should allow for prices low enough to compete with street dealers. Since it is already extremely easy for adults in Oregon to obtain medical marijuana cards (almost 65,000 Oregonians have one), recreational legalization will not be a big change. As The Oregonian editorialized in August, the measure would “be worth supporting for reasons of honesty and convenience alone.”
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA Initiative 71 would repeal all criminal and civil penalties for personal possession of marijuana and allow limited, private cultivation of the drug. People 21 and older could grow up to six plants at home and give away up to one ounce. Because the District of Columbia Home Rule Act does not allow a tax to be imposed by referendum, Initiative 71 would not set up a mechanism for regulating retail sales of the drug.
“Opponents of legalization warn that states are embarking on a risky experiment”, says the Times. “But the sky over Colorado has not fallen, and prohibition has proved to be a complete failure. It’s time to bring the marijuana market out into the open and end the injustice of arrests and convictions that have devastated communities.
Careful regulation of the drug could very well make it safer to consume, and proper taxation could bring in new revenue for states. This year, from January through June, Colorado collected about $18.9 million.”
The editorial piece concludes; “Ideally, the federal government would repeal the ban on marijuana, so states could set their own policies without worrying about the possibility of a crackdown on citizens violating federal law. Even though a majority of Americans favor legalization, Congress shows no sign of budging. So it’s better for the states to take the lead than to wait for an epiphany on Capitol Hill that may never come.”
The endorsement article can be found by clicking here.