Sometimes a bend in the road of history is such that its significance is hard to appreciate at the moment it happens.
But that’s where the nation may be on legalization of marijuana.
This week, The New York Times editorialized in favor of legalizing pot, a move quickly skewered by Nate Silver of the FiveThirtyEight blog with the headline, “Group of Liberal New Yorkers Wants to Legalize Weed.”
And while Silver is right that The Times’ position is anti-climactic on one level, it also may be one of those markers of elite opinion suggesting we are at a national tipping point in marijuana policy.
Roll into that equation the way polls show public support for legalization growing in recent years — from roughly 30 percent in favor at the turn of the century to more than 50 percent today — and the host of proposals by members of Congress to reform federal policies involving marijuana, and one begins to see a possible turning point with greater clarity.
This week, the four U.S. senators from Colorado and Washington state sent a letter to the White House asking for greater regulatory clarity on matters of banking and water use to accommodate marijuana businesses that are legal at the state level.
Such requests are no longer novel. Conflicts with federal policies have been widely reported since marijuana was legalized in Colorado and Washington, and elected officials from both parties have pushed for policies to allow them to operate.
Still, the drift in opinion in favor of legalization has a way to go among the power elite. For example, a Huffington Post analysis published in April asserted that not a single one of the nation’s 50 governors and 100 U.S. senators had announced support for full legalization.
Surely, that’s an opinion profile that will change as more states decriminalize or legalize marijuana and polls become even more lopsided in favor of such policies.
However late The New York Times may be to the debate, it is surely right that marijuana policy should be up to the states, meaning the federal government should repeal its ban on the substance.
The nation is undergoing a monumental shift in the way its policymakers think about and deal with marijuana, and it’s time to let the people of each state craft policy that is best-suited to their own concerns.