Marijuana Legalization AMA: NY Times in the Hotseat

    August 5, 2014
    Mike Tuttle
    Comments are off for this post.

Andrew Rosenthal, the editorial page editor of The New York Times, along with David Firestone and Juliet Lapidos, who contributed to a series of New York Times editorials calling on the federal government to lift the ban on marijuana, conducted a Reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything) today. Though they briefly fielded a handful of other topics, they were there specifically to talk pot.

The Times’ editorial series on legalization has drawn a lot of attention. An endorsement of this kind carries a lot of weight and lends an air of respectability to an issue that many people had heretofore seen as just for stoners.

Rosenthal told Reddit participants that, “The editorial board decided to make the call after considering the high social costs, and general absurdity, of the ban — which is still based on the classification of weed as a Schedule 1 substance, like heroin and LSD. The series, which considered health, politics, history, criminal justice, and the experience in Colorado with legalization, led to a vigorous and fascinating conversation among readers on the Times site.”

The array of questions posed to the Times’ folks was in keeping with the usual no-holds-barred probing from Redditors. There were jokesters, but there were some hard-hitting interrogatories too.

One of the topics that Redditors took the Times to task over was how their “legalize it” stance conflicts with the Times’ own drug testing policy.

User “MarijuanaMajority” asked: “Former Times executive editor Bill Keller said on Reddit earlier today that the Times endorsing marijuana legalization while at the same time drug testing journalists for marijuana is ‘increasingly difficult to defend,’ pointing out its ‘inconsistency.’ Do you agree with him and the nearly 5,000 people that have signed a petition asking the Times to end the practice of checking the content of reporters’ urine before they’re allowed to byline stories?”

The editors on the AMA had an answer: “The issue of drug testing is a matter of corporate policy, and I don’t make corporate policy, and neither does anyone else in the editorial department. I was asked about this the other day by Chris Hayes and I said that if they asked me, I would say we should stop testing for marijuana use, but that I’m not all that sure I will be asked.”

Getting politicians to talk about legalizing marijuana, whether for or against, is pretty tough. For most candidates, there is no good answer that will no lose them voters. Rosenthal was asked about that, as well.

“I think the candidates should be honest in saying what their views are. This is just not a third-rail issue anymore. I’m hoping that a serious candidate will in fact endorse the repeal of the federal ban on weed. If I were moderating a debate in 2016, assuming things go on like they are now, then I would certainly ask about it. With any luck, more progress will have been made on this issue by then.”

The editors were specific in saying that they were calling for a lift on the federal marijuana ban, leaving the issue up to the individual states. Whether or not the states should allow legalization may be a different matter.

“What we have called for is an end to the federal marijuana ban, which will allow states to decide for themselves, based on the very kind of value judgments that David [Brooks] made in his column, and in other places. David would agree with us that the federal ban should be ended. He would then go on to argue that states should not legalize recreational use. That is just the kind of debate we need to have about marijuana.

Finally, Rosenthal pulled back the curtain on the reasons why the Times is addressing this issue now.

“Perhaps the biggest motivation for doing this series, and making such a big deal out of it, is that prohibition repeal is a criminal justice and civil rights issue. The enforcement of marijuana laws has a heavily racist slant in this country. An African American is far more likely to be arrested for simple possession, put on trial, convicted and sent to prison. Righting this wrong is imperative. As a society we should never tolerate a situation in which young black men go to prison for doing some that well-off white people are doing with impunity.”

Image via YouTube

  • laura23451

    The good thing about the legalization issue is that there’s people on both sides of the isle that support it. Rand Paul is a serious presidential candidate and he’s in favor of legalization. A Republican that supports marijuana legalization will have some SERIOUS appeal to voters. He might actually win.

    Crazy as it sounds, even some socially conservative Republicans like John McCain have expressed openness about legalization.

    Let’s forget, it’s been since 1988 since America elected a president who HASN’T smoked weed themselves!!! Clinton, W Bush, and Obama all smoked weed (Obama + Bush even did coke). George HW Bush was the last POTUS who didn’t smoke weed. Obviously, it’s not a career killer for politicians 😉

    • B Bexley

      Not sure where you got your info but Rand Paul is not in favor of legalization.
      Maybe you were thinking of his father?

      I agree with you that it should be legalized. If a republican would run with legalization being a main point of their campaign there is no way they would lose in 2016.

      • will

        he is in favor of allowing states to decide if they want weed and if they vote and it passes he will enforce that

    • john

      Rand Paul is in favor of legalization, he is a libertarian. I don’t know where bexley gets his info. even so I still wouldn’t vote for him because of this single issue.
      on a side note there is some speculation that Washington and Jefferson might have been hemp smokers, they were definitely hemp farmers. it is also believed that europeans were familiar with the psychoactive properties of cannabis by this time, so it is logical that americans would also be knowledgeable of that.

      • DeeperDish

        Rand Paul favors decriminalization but not legalization.

        “Q: You would like to relax some of the laws for people who possess and are smoking marijuana, and synthetic recreational drugs. Why?

        A: The main thing I’ve said is not to legalize them but not to incarcerate people for extended periods of time. With Senator Leahy, we have a bill on mandatory minimums. There are people in jail for 50 years for nonviolent crimes. And that’s a huge mistake. Our prisons are full of nonviolent criminals. I don’t want to encourage people to do it. Marijuana takes away your incentive to work. I don’t want to promote that but I also don’t want to put people in jail who make the mistake.”

        — Rand Paul, Fox News Sunday, March 24, 2013

        He doesn’t want to address the violent black market, which can only be addressed with full legalization.

      • B Bexley

        You have a lot to learn.

  • SirVivor

    I disagree with Rosenthal that politicians are afraid to talk about this issue for fear of losing voters. They are much more afraid of losing bribe …. I mean campaign money from thousands of entities that stand to lose when legalization happens. The majority of voters have favored legalization for some time now and the science supports it, but not the corporations and public entities who will (and should) be put out of business. Until we stop the flow of bribe money to our elected officials they will never do the right thing. This is one more reason not to vote for any republican or democrat since both parties are corrupt.

    • scott steven

      how can they lose votes when the MAJORITY of voters want cannabis legalized medically over 80%. If u get 80% of the votes u win duhhhhhhhhhhhhh

      • SirVivor

        Because most voters are too stupid or gullible and are swayed by candidates with the most money and slickest campaigns – not the best policies. If that weren’t true cannabis would have been legalized already.

  • http://www.lemonparty.org/ IJR

    The federal government says that marijuana is more dangerous than cocaine and meth.
    The federal government says that marijuana has no medical uses.
    The federal government has patents on some of the medical uses of marijuana.

    Why would anyone trust the federal government?

    • jbird

      On point

    • scaballs

      I agree. They are criminals who are busy stuffing their pockets. I vote for a pay decrease.

  • john

    how many people reading this are aware that cannabis was sold as extracts, tinctures and packages of the raw herb in drugstores all across the country until the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937 brought that to an end. Cannabis was listed in the US Pharmacopoeia from about 1850 to 1942 and in all, there were approximately 30 pharmaceutical cannabis preparations available in the 1930s. By 1941, however, they had disappeared from the shelves of American pharmacies, replaced by alternatives that didn’t have cannabis’s short shelf life, were injectable, or were more effective.

  • cuntpuntfluntblunt

    Its time to legalize this stop with the bullshit

  • Nomoreformetoday

    I enjoy marijuana, but it has caused a lot of problems in my life. My nine sisters and three brothers hated me because I smoked for pleasure. Marijuana use is a target for everything that can go wrong in life. Though I feel that marijuana has its positive attributes, (I can eat, sleep, work, and play), it has severely impacted my ability to qualify for employment. Because of this, poverty and discrimination can become a reality for me. So, I must quit smoking marijuana. But, I will not replace marijuana with tobacco or alcohol because tobacco and alcohol makes me feel ill, really sick. Initially, I was opposed to legalization of medical marijuana, because I thought medical marijuana was a marketing plan for the health-care industry, it could be that marijuana is a medicine that has helped me feel healthy for over forty years. However, legalization of marijuana will create another hardship for users because it will be controlled by the government and corporations that will prohibit agriculture and harvest of the plant in backyard gardens. This forces the cost of marijuana to remain at current market value, which is expensive, and does not allow consumers to lower their cost. I read that it cost about one dollar to produce an ounce of medical marijuana that sells for three hundred dollars.

    • chris9465

      if you cant pass a marijuana piss test you are probably too stupid to do the job in the 1st place

      • Nomoreformetoday

        You are absolutely correct about my stupidity. I thought it was marijuana that made me ineligible for employment. Thank you for the response.

    • scott steven

      colorado has many job openings for cannabis employees. It costs more than a dollar to produce an ounce of medical grade indoor grown cannabis. I been growing indoors legally since 2000. Send me your info for growing an ounce for a dollar and i’ll make u a rich person.

      • Nomoreformetoday

        Malivert, R., & Hall, J. C. (2013,
        December). The effect of medical marijuana laws on extralegal marijuana prices. Atlantic Economic Journal, 41(4), 455+.

  • spkavyo

    I’m a medical user in CO since 12/09. I have chronic pain issues from nerve damage and four back surgeries. It has been a blessing for me, has allowed me to lower the dosage of narcotic medications I have to take, and has improved my mood also. I wish the federal Schedule 1 status would be repealed. As an old white guy I’m unlikely to be arrested, but I still wish medicating with marijuana, or smoking it to relax, and growing marijuana and hemp would be decriminalized federally. I don’t want to break the law, but I need to for my pain!
    Marijuana, cannabis and hemp are wonderfully useful plants whose cultivation should be encouraged, not outlawed!
    End the Drug War Now!

    • scaballs

      Spkavyo,Thanks for your story. Please tell it often, until people get it. Please stop referring to cannabis as marijuana. The word was invented in the late 1800’s to disparage cannabis and it’s uses. If I made up a word for weed it would be frorange because it rhymes with orange.

  • George

    Alcohol must be just for Alcoholics of whom are irresponsible, can’t make bills or take care of their children, are cause for much domestic violence as well as poor choices that result in disease or unplanned children. Enough said. So are people that drink alcohol any better? Nope actually worse. Thanks a bunch.

  • Antoshka

    My husband died from stage IV throat cancer 2 months ago. He was ill for some time, and was dying painfully. It was heart breaking to watch him losing his life. He had radiation, couldn’t eat much, his mouth was bleeding. All he could eat was a jello, and a small bottle of Kellog’s milk shake. All I could think about was what he would be able to swallow, what should I feed him to keep his strength.

    There are no words to describe the anguish, pain and anger I experienced. I was silently yelling why we don’t have medical marijuana in GA? He would be able to eat and fight his cancer. Haven’t any law makers in GA went through what I was going through?

    He was getting weaker daily, stopped eating, then – taking fluids. To watch somebody dying like that is unbearable. It’s cruel. Cancer patients MUST have medical marijuana. Our society cannot be cruel to such patients. Do you know, that approximately 145 000 children per year get cancer?


    • scaballs

      Antoshka, My condolences to you. My son’s mom died at age41, when he was 16 mo. old, from lung cancer from smoking tobacco. She would smoke cannabis all day and didn’t need the morphine until later at night when she got tired. I wish I could have figured out how to put cannabis in her diet alone while I’m cooking but didn’t find a way to help her better, and I lament.
      COWARDS, your are obviously not afraid of ignorance.
      I am a damn fine American and should be legal to pursue my own path of recreation.
      Gay marriage and legal cannabis is coming to a location near you soon, so get used to it. Both are/ were illegal for the wrong reasons.

  • Johnwcaldwell

    I say now, on my honor as a military veteran, as an american, that I will only vote for politicians who publicly take a stand for the legalization of marijuana. If two opposing candidates support the legalization of marijuana then I will vote considering the other issues, but otherwise, the public stand for the legalization of marijuana will secure my vote for that candidate. On my honor I will do this. Will anyone else join me?

    • Rob Saxe

      I’ll join you..I decided that quite some time ago actually.

      • Johnwcaldwell

        Wonderful! Why are there only 20 comments about this news article?

    • scott steven

      a nam vet here and a native colorado resident we the people are with u

    • weekends

      It has been my mantra every since the tide has been turning our way. I have NO use for a politician that will be happy for someone to go to jail for a doobie but will go out for cocktails right after they vote against the legislation to legalize it. I don’t care which party it is…….either vote FOR it or MILLIONS will vote AGAINST YOU!

      • Johnwcaldwell

        Politicians will only vote for it if they know we are watching them. Glad to make your acquaintance!

  • Guest

    African Americans who are sick may be allowed to use marijuana but the healthy people will go to jail. It is expected for African American men to drink liquor and/or wine to get high. The expected types of wines are Thunderbird. Say, what’s the word,? Thunderbird. Alcohol was one of America’s greatest problem when the prohibition of alcohol was lifted. The Government begun to confiscate citizens vineyards and illegal distillers and in some states tge prevented some African Americans from buying expensive booze in exchange to drink cheat wines that caused cancer, This iwas mainly done to some of those WWII veterans. Now that more people want to stop smoking cigarette and drinking booze to smoke marijuana, they now risk going to jail. /Where is the democracy?

  • Nadirah Ahmed

    African Americans who are sick may be allowed to use marijuana but
    the healthy people will go to jail. It is expected for African American
    men to drink liquor and/or wine to get high. The expected types of wines
    are Thunderbird. Say, what’s the word,? Thunderbird. Alcohol was one
    of America’s greatest problem when the prohibition of alcohol was
    lifted. The Government begun to confiscate citizens vineyards and
    illegal distillers and in some states prevented some African
    Americans from buying expensive booze in exchange to drink cheat wines
    that caused cancer, This was mainly done to some of those WWII
    veterans. Now that more people want to stop smoking cigarettes and
    drinking booze to smoke marijuana, they now risk going to jail. Where
    is the democracy?



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  • http://freedomscorner.org/dusty/ Dusty Relic

    God forbid that patients should be able to tell their doctors what kind of treatment they want! Next thing you know restaurant patrons will be demanding the right to ask for their meat rare, medium, or well-done!

  • Randy Baker

    Federal government says marijuana has no medical use and on the other hand the federal government holds several patents on medical marijuana use in cancer .. LOL go figure

    • scott steven

      also FDA has lilly’s THC schedule 3 controlled substance not a shedule 1 like they have on God’s made THC that no one has ever died of an overdose like people have with marinol and the other nol man-made THC

  • Skirumboy

    To: the author of this article; this headline makes it look as though the A. M. A. (American Medical Association) put the NYT in the ‘hot seat’. A majority of doctors want this legalized because they have read the research concerning the shrinking of cancer tumors by THC (dozens of studies offering evidence since 1974, the latest from the U. K. in which they also name the receptor that causes this) and the actual killing of cancer cells by CDBs (Google “Cannabinoids +cancer +study + San Francisco”). You should have mentioned that the majority in the AMA want marijuana legal. Journalism in this country has hit a new low. I can not think of anything bad enough to say. Insert the most horrible profanity you can imagine here.

  • scott steven

    FDA has big pharms Lilly’s THC a schedule 3 controlled substance. Why isn’t God’s made THC a schedule 1 drug??? God’s made is BETTER than lilly’s made.

  • scott steven
  • scaballs

    Being pro-cannabis will not hurt politically but it will hurt economically. Tobacco and alcohol lobbies pay billions to the system for what? To keep cannabis illegal. Congress cannot do a Efing thing for insane reasons. Change our laws locally.

  • beancrisp

    I challenge anyone who is against the legalization of marijuana to logically explain to me how their stance is consistent with individual liberty.

  • scott steven

    check this site out people some nice research and stats