White House

White House Responds to The New York Times Editorial on the Legalization of Marijuana

The White House has responded to an editorial published earlier this week in The New York Times supporting legalization of marijuana, saying that the editorial fails to address public health problems associated with the drug.

On July 27, The New York Times editorial board said that the Federal government should legalize marijuana for adults 21 years and older, and compared the Federal marijuana policy to the failure of alcohol prohibition. Additionally, the editorial advocated for legalization of the drug based on the harm inflicted on young African American men who become involved in the criminal justice system as a result of marijuana possession charges.

The Office of National Drug Control Policy responded, agreeing that the criminal justice system is in need of reform and acknowledging that disproportionality exists, but said that “marijuana legalization is not the silver bullet solution to the issue.” The statement said that the editorial ignores the science and fails to address health problems linked to increased use of marijuana.

The Office of National Drug Control Policy cited studies on the negative effects of marijuana including a recent study that revealed impairment of the development of structures in certain regions of the brain following prolonged use of marijuana that began in adolescence. In the statement, the White House said that substance use in school age children has a detrimental effect on their academic achievement, marijuana is addictive and drugged driving is a threat to our roadways.

Additionally, the post argues that legalizing marijuana would neither eliminate the black market for marijuana, nor guarantee that states will benefit from the substantial revenue of retail marijuana sales.

“Any discussion on the issue should be guided by science and evidence, not ideology and wishful thinking. The Obama Administration continues to oppose legalization of marijuana and other illegal drugs because it flies in the face of a public health approach to reducing drug use and its consequences. Our approach is founded on the understanding of addiction as a disease that can be successfully prevented and treated, and from which people can recover. We continue to focus on genuine drug policy reform – a strategy that rejects extremes, and promotes expanded access to treatment, evidence-based prevention efforts, and alternatives to incarceration,” the White House wrote in the blog.

The editorial board of The New York Times argued that after weighing legalization of the drug, the scale is in favor of ending the ban. The piece acknowledged concerns regarding use of the drug, such as restricting sales to those under the age of 21.

To date, only two states have legalized marijuana for recreational purposes for adults. In the US, 23 states have legalized marijuana for medical purposes, and about a dozen more states are considering some form of legalization. However, at the federal level, marijuana is still considered illegal and classified as a Schedule I substance considered one of the most dangerous drugs, along with heroin and LSD.

Source: The New York Times; Office of National Drug Control Policy

Last updated:  7/31/14; 10:55am EST