The growing campaign for legalizing marijuana has what would appear to be an unlikely supporter: the National Review.
The conservative magazine published an editorial on Monday applauding Colorado for becoming the first state to make the "prudent choice" of legalizing recreational marijuana, "thus dispensing with the charade of medical restrictions and recognizing the fact that, while some people smoke marijuana to counter the effects of chemotherapy, most people smoke marijuana to get high.
The prohibition of marijuana, its editors argue, has led to "billions in enforcement costs, and hundreds of thousands of arrests each year, in a fruitless attempt to control a mostly benign drug."
"We make a lot of criminals while preventing very little crime," the National Review writes, "and do a great deal of harm in the course of trying to prevent an activity that presents little if any harm in and of itself."
The editorial comes less than a week after the world's first legal recreational marijuana sales began in Colorado, with pot stores seeing long lines and retailers reporting supply shortages, pushing prices as high as $400 an ounce.
Pot stores in the state of Washington, which also voted to legalize recreational marijuana, are expected to open later this year. And marijuana activists hope to help pass similar laws in 13 more states by 2017.
"Marijuana is a drug, as abusable as any intoxicant is, and its long-term use is in some people associated with undesirable effects," the National Review continues. "But its effects are relatively mild, and while nearly half of American adults have smoked marijuana, few develop habits, much less habits that are lifelong. ... Compared to binge drinking or alcohol addiction, marijuana use is a minor public-health concern. All that being the case, the price of prohibition is relatively high, whether measured in police and penal expenses or in liberty lost. The popularity of marijuana may not be the most admirable social trend of our time, but it simply is not worth suppressing."
Legalization, the National Review says, is "a sign that Americans still recognize some limitations" on the reach of government.
"It is perhaps a little dispiriting that of all the abusive overreaches of government to choose from, it is weed that has the nation’s attention," the National Review concludes, "but it is a victory nonetheless."
It's not the first time the National Review has weighed in on the legalization debate. In 1996, the magazine published an editorial that also favored legalization.
"It is our judgment that the war on drugs has failed, that it is diverting intelligent energy away from how to deal with the problem of addiction, that it is wasting our resources, and that it is encouraging civil, judicial, and penal procedures associated with police states," the editors wrote in letter to readers in February of that year. "We all agree on movement toward legalization, even though we may differ on just how far."
[Editor's note: This article has been corrected to reflect the magazine's previous support of legalization.]