Blog Post

NY Times Comes Out Strong for Marijuana Legalization in D.C., Oregon and Alaska

Tony Newman

After making history this summer by becoming the first national paper to call for marijuana legalization, the New York Times doubled down today with their strong editorial in support of the marijuana legalization initiatives on the ballot in D.C., Oregon and Alaska. Marijuana reform and mass incarceration are taking center stage in 2014’s election as public opinion has shifted dramatically over the last decade against the failed drug war.

When the Times came out for legalization in August, what made the news so huge was not only their position, but the passion and space they gave to the issue. In addition to the lead editorial, “Repeal Prohibition, Again”, there was a six-part series on marijuana legalization with long, thoughtful editorials on related issues such as criminal justice, public health, regulatory models, and so forth.

It’s gratifying to see them strengthening their commitment to this issue just as the eyes of the world are on Oregon, Alaska and Washington D.C.  Today’s editorial built on the Times’ previous arguments against marijuana prohibition:

“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. 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. 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.”

The Times called on Oregon, Alaska and D.C. to take the lead as the federal government is lagging on the issue:

“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.”

In the 2012 election, Colorado and Washington State made history by becoming the first political jurisdictions in the world to legally regulate marijuana. In 2013, Uruguay became the first country to do so, and several others are looking to follow suit.

By voting for marijuana legalization this November, voters have the chance not just to improve millions of lives in their own states and communities – they will also be helping our country and others around the world find an exit strategy to our disastrous war on drugs.

Tony Newman is the director of media relations at the Drug Policy Alliance (

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