The editorial board of The New York Times has weighed in with its collective take on decriminalizing marijuana use, and it can be summed up with two familiar words: Legalize it.

Of course, the Gray Lady’s writerly brain trust put it more eloquently, but the gist is that it’s, well, high time that the national ban Congress imposed, more than four decades ago, on lighting up is lifted, and that it’s up to the individual states to figure out how they want to handle the issue for themselves.

While making room for “people’s legitimate concerns” about the potential downsides, on the societal and personal levels, to the production and use of marijuana, the paper’s board compared this historical juncture to another familiar chapter from America’s past, which is evident in the headline: “Repeal Prohibition, Again.”

According to the writers, the costs of maintaining the federal ban far outweigh the benefits — oh, and also, that retro “Reefer Madness” hysteria needs to go, too:

The social costs of the marijuana laws are vast. There were 658,000 arrests for marijuana possession in 2012, according to F.B.I. figures, compared with 256,000 for cocaine, heroin and their derivatives. Even worse, the result is racist, falling disproportionately on young black men, ruining their lives and creating new generations of career criminals.

There is honest debate among scientists about the health effects of marijuana, but we believe that the evidence is overwhelming that addiction and dependence are relatively minor problems, especially compared with alcohol and tobacco. Moderate use of marijuana does not appear to pose a risk for otherwise healthy adults. Claims that marijuana is a gateway to more dangerous drugs are as fanciful as the “Reefer Madness” images of murder, rape and suicide.

The board also addressed questions about possible developmental problems linked to pot consumption by stipulating that people under 21 shouldn’t be allowed to purchase marijuana products.

–Posted by Kasia Anderson

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