This Prohibition Must Remain in Place

My personal preference for international newspaper reporting is the New York Times. I have continued reading it on Sundays for years to get balanced interpretations of the previous week’s global events. However, they really missed the mark last month with their editorial promoting the legalization of marijuana.

Essentially, the NY Times’ editorial board argued that repealing the 40-year criminalization of marijuana is long overdue in the United States compared to the lifting of Prohibition that endured from 1920-1933. During those alcohol repression years, law-abiding citizens had criminality forced upon them by choosing to drink. Unlawful syndicates all too willing to supply the alcohol, flourished.  According to the modern day NY Times, remove the crime from the federal penal code and suddenly, all the nasty things associated with it will be tamed.

As we know, expunging the criminality of alcohol after Prohibition did not cause a halt to usage. In fact, the opposite happened; only now, government coffers were filled because taxes were collected on a substance whose production, sale, and consumption was now openly and legitimately systematized. Who says organized former crimes do not pay?

Where the NY Times got it wrong in my opinion, is in the assertion marijuana is less harmful than alcohol and that for this reason alone, the American federal government should repeal criminal acts associated with it. The editorial board it seems, was inspired by the quickly expanding movement at the individual states level to reform marijuana laws. The editorial took the stance marijuana does not appear to be a gateway drug and that compared with alcohol and tobacco, moderate use of marijuana does not pose a health risk. I wonder if perhaps the editorial board was absorbing some of the ‘weed’ themselves on the day they wrote this misguided piece.

True, there is scientific debate about how risky marijuana is in comparison to other drugs but what is astounding about the influential NY Times’ lack of bearing on this issue is that the newspaper ignored the irrefutable evidence marijuana can and does destroy lives. Legalization is not an answer and it is irresponsible to advocate for it when we know this specific drug wreaks havoc on young, developing brains. Moreover, enforcement of an imaginary orderly transition to legal cultivation, distribution, and use of marijuana will be virtually impossible.

Just as avaricious tobacco and alcohol conglomerates have done since becoming legal, there will be efforts to attract new generations of young users. Marijuana will be the advertisers’ dream jackpot. The substance is perfect for packaging in edible configurations like cookies and candies. Once that happens on an openly mass production scale, there will be no turning back.

Let’s think before we act.

By Tullio Orlando, Executive Director, Caritas School of Life