It bears an aura of inevitability, the state-by-state fall of marijuana prohibition, starting with January’s debut of commercial sales in Colorado and Washington state.
Even as the legalization trend has spread, however, gathering momentum in at least 11 other states and setting up a prolonged clash with federal law, the issue has drowsed in the shadows of establishment conversation. It’s been officially ignored by major editorial boards, legal and medical societies, blue-chip companies and religious groups.
But the last time the reform movement was putting this much pressure on Congress — back in the 1970s — many of the staid institutions that are remaining silent now, noisily sallied forth and grooved to the issue of legal or near-legal weed.
The National Review, Washington Post and New York Times each urged “decriminalization,” an interim step involving the removal of all criminal penalties for the holding, using or passing of small quantities of marijuana.
Ann Landers, Dan Quayle and the corporate warriors of the Committee for Economic Development threw down for the same.
Ditto the doctors, lawyers and PhDs of the American Medical Association, American Bar and American Public Health Association.
Even teachers, rabbis and priests stood for looser marijuana laws in the 70s, bringing along the National Education Association, the Reform Rabbinate of America and the nation’s largest ecumenical organization, the National Council of Churches — all of which endorsed decriminalization.
The Consumers Union and the editors of Consumer Reports went furthest, calling for full legalization, the creation of a regulatory model (a la Colorado and Washington), and the immediate release of everyone in prison for marijuana possession. Such charges, they added, should be expunged from people’s records.
“It is much too late to debate the issue,” argued the great defender of American wallets. “Marijuana is here to stay.”