I'm not sure that anybody takes the New York Times as seriously as the New York Times takes itself. But when this country's "paper of record," the one proclaiming, "all the news that's fit to print (or "click," as its website so trendily puts it)," comes out with a major editorial in favor of repealing the federal ban on marijuana... well, this is interesting.
The editorial appeared on the front page of the Times' op-ed section, Sunday Review, on July 27. It ran beneath a full color graphic in which the stars of the American flag morph into golden marijuana leaves.
The Times said its editorial board decided in favor of reforming our pot laws after "a great deal of discussion." The editorial went on to say: "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."
The Times comes out decisively in favor of repealing the national prohibition on marijuana, arguing that decisions on whether to allow recreational or medicinal production and use should be left to the states.
While the Times' editorial clout is doubtful in, say, Loogootee or Peru, Ind., you can bet this piece was read over coffee and croissants around Dupont Circle in Washington, D.C. Who knows? It might even have found its way to the governor's residence in Indianapolis.
That said, even the Times' editorial writers admit "this Congress is as unlikely to take action on marijuana as it has been on other big issues."
But an editorial like this one doesn't need to be the cause that creates a certain effect, like, for instance, inspiring lawmakers to come to their senses and put an end to the decades-long prohibition on marijuana.
One of the biggest obstacles to enacting common sense laws and regulations concerning pot has been elite America's refusal to face up to its own experience. It is inconceivable that most of the Baby Boomers in positions of power today are virgins when it comes to marijuana. Indeed, while it would be unfair, if not plain silly, to use having smoked pot as some kind of litmus test for public service, it is just as ridiculous to suggest that the only people qualified for public office are those who have either never touched the stuff, or concluded that getting high is wrong.
In fact, the FBI may be blazing a new trail on that front. According to a May 20 article in the Wall Street Journal, "in order to attract talented new agents, especially those equipped to go after some of the world's most sophisticated hackers and cybercriminals," FBI Director James B. Comey is advocating a looser approach to the agency's hiring policies toward marijuana users. The article quoted comments Comey made at a conference in New York: "I have to hire a great work force to compete with those cybercriminals, and some of those kids want to smoke weed on the way to the interview."
The fact is that an awful lot of us have gotten high. Many of us continue to do so. We liked it then, we like it now. We know full well that most of what passes for official information about marijuana is harmful nonsense.
But we are also afraid of talking about our experience. Pot's illegal, after all, and as long this is the case, honest discussion about our experience with the stuff could get us in trouble.
But honest discussion is also the only way we have for changing our unnecessary and demeaning marijuana laws. The Times' editorial represents a serious step in this direction.