Continuing its series of editorials advocating the legalization of marijuana, the New York Times cites the opinion expressed to Congress by Michele Leonhart, administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration, that “all illegal drugs are bad for people.” The newspaper says her testimony “neatly illustrates the vast gap between antiquated federal law enforcement policies and the clear consensus of science that marijuana is far less harmful to human health than most other banned drugs and is less dangerous than the highly addictive but perfectly legal substances known as alcohol and tobacco.” Marijuana cannot produce a fatal overdose or cause cancer.
Its addictive properties, while present, are low, and the myth that it leads users to more powerful drugs has long since been disproved, the Times contends. The newspaper conceds that marijuana is not harmless. The potency of current strains may shock those who haven't tried it for decades, particularly when ingested as food. It can produce a serious dependency, and constant use would interfere with job and school performance. It needs to be kept out of the hands of minors. On balance, the Times concludes, its downsides are not reasons to impose criminal penalties on possession, particularly not in a society that permits nicotine use and celebrates drinking.