Arianna Huffington followed up The New York Times’ pro-marijuana legalization editorial with a sprawling missive of her own on July 29.
Huffington, the influential founder of The Huffington Post, hopes the federal government will recognize the failed drug war by decriminalizing marijuana, minimizing the potential harm on children and looking to science for guidance.
“The drug war has been one of the worst domestic-policy catastrophes in American history. The human toll has been staggering. Drug offenders make up fully half of our massive inmate population. Of those, nearly 28 percent are locked up for marijuana-related offenses. In 2012 some 658,000 people were arrested for marijuana possession, and fighting marijuana use alone costs federal and state governments $20 billion a year. And the targets of the war on drugs have disproportionately been people of color. African Americans, for instance, make up 14 percent of habitual drug users yet constitute 37 percent of those arrested on drug charges.”
Huffington spoke with UCLA public policy professor Mark Kleiman, who co-wrote “Marijuana Legalization: What Everyone Needs to Know,” and he told her, “At the moment, we’re stumbling toward a commercial system, which I think of as the second-worst option, with only continued prohibition having worse likely outcomes.”
Huffington references Harvard professors and Yale studies and concludes that we need to learn from past mistakes regarding marijuana — and alcohol and tobacco, too.
“After many years of a horribly destructive and wasteful war on drugs, we are finally poised to bring an end to this shameful chapter in our country’s history. But, as we look ahead to the next chapter, it’s our collective responsibility to keep the science at the forefront of how we roll out legalization. We can learn a lot from the long history of trying to mitigate the harm of tobacco and alcohol. We don’t need to make the same painful mistakes again.”