New York Times editorial calls for marijuana to be decriminalised
In a bold editorial comparing the US ban on marijuana to the prohibition era, The New York Times has called for the legalisation of the drug.
The publication said pot laws disproportionately affected young black men and that addiction and dependence were "relatively minor problems", especially when compared with alcohol and tobacco.
"It took 13 years for the United States to come to its senses and end prohibition, 13 years in which people kept drinking, otherwise law-abiding citizens became criminals and crime syndicates arose and flourished," the newspaper said on Saturday.
"It has been more than 40 years since Congress passed the current ban on marijuana, inflicting great harm on society just to prohibit a substance far less dangerous than alcohol. The federal government should repeal the ban on marijuana."
Noting that the editorial board reached its conclusion after much discussion, the Times described the social costs of marijuana laws as "vast".
Quoting FBI figures showing there were 658,000 arrests for marijuana possession in 2012, which was far higher than for cocaine, heroin and their derivatives, it said "the result is racist, falling disproportionately on young black men, ruining their lives and creating new generations of career criminals".
While advocating for a ban on marijuana sales to those under 21, the paper also said the "moderate use of marijuana does not appear to pose a risk for otherwise healthy adults".
In January, US President Barack Obama made headlines when he said smoking the drug was no more dangerous than drinking, although he called the practice a "bad idea" and did not mention legalisation.