Yes, as the great/heroic Ethan Nadelmann proclaims in the Huffington Post, it’s a very big deal for the country that the influential New York Times has editorialized in favor of marijuana legalization.

Now let’s see how many other liberal papers grow a set and follow their thought leader.

Too bad the Times‘ epiphany is pathetically long overdue — and five years behind a conservative/libertarian paper from Pittsburgh.

The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review — the daily owned by the late Richard Scaife — wrote the editorial below on July 29, 2009 because Scaife had been persuaded (by me, I’m proud to say) that the government’s war on marijuana was not just a total failure but a horrible infringement on individual freedom.

Though I and other Trib columnists  regularly called for the end of the War on (all) Drugs and did our best to ridicule the Bush and Obama administrations for their immoral and stupid drug policies, I had left the Trib by the time its call for legalization ran:

 

Stop ‘reefer madness’: Legalize marijuana

It’s time to legalize marijuana.

Note we did not say it’s time to “decriminalize” marijuana. And note we did not say it’s time to legalize marijuana nationwide for medicinal purposes only.

It’s time to flat-out legalize the production, possession, sale and use of marijuana.

This should be a no-brainer for thinking people. After all, alcohol prohibition in the early 20th century was such a “success,” right?

The federal prohibition against marijuana took effect 72 years ago this Sunday. It has flooded our legal system, jails and prisons. It has cost taxpayers billions of dollars annually.

It also has fueled organized crime and violence on a massive national and international scale.

And it has sent billions of dollars into an underground economic system that could bolster the mainstream economy, especially in these recessionary times.

Indeed, with legalization there must be some commonsense, effective and market-friendly regulation. (Please, no Pennsylvania Marijuana Control Board.)

Marijuana sales should be taxed. (But not at a level that discourages its commerce.)

Use by minors should be prohibited. (Let the debate begin whether that should be under 21 or under 18.)

And the same under-the-influence laws that apply to alcohol and driving should be applied to marijuana.

We’re off our conservative rocker, you say• Then late conservative icons William F. Buckley and Milton Friedman were, too.

Citing the Dutch example, Mr. Buckley said usage did not swell. “Today we have illegal marijuana for whoever wants it,” he added.

Noted Mr. Friedman, citing clear economic thinking: “There is no logical basis for the prohibition of marijuana.”

Marijuana’s prohibition long has been rooted in fear, not facts, and in government propaganda, not sane public policy. Prohibition has led to far more fearsome things, true reefer madness, if you will.

It’s time for sanity in the Great Marijuana Debate. It’s time, at long last, to legalize marijuana.