CBS, NBC Highlight Downside to NYT's Call for Pot Legalization

As the New York Times launched a high profile editorial to federally legalize marijuana, NBC and CBS on Monday surprisingly showcased the downside of the pro-pot movement in states such as Colorado and Washington. CBS This Morning host Gayle King alerted, "After voters in Colorado and Washington State gave the green light for recreational use, the Times editorial board now wants the rest of the country to have the same opportunity." 

Touting the status of the New York Times, reporter Jan Crawford related, "It may seem like edgy stuff from the so-called paper of record, but it reflects a sharp shift in public opinion." Yet, the journalist also explained, "Legalization has been linked to at least two deaths as well as incidents of children accidentally ingesting marijuana-laced food." [See video below. MP3 audio here.]

Providing balance, Crawford featured Kevin Sabet from the organization Smart Approaches to marijuana: 

KEVEN SABET (Smart Approaches to Marijuana): Well, what the New York Times is calling for is, really, a radical move that counters all the major medical associations that have looked at this. And it wouldn't be good for America. Do we really want to encourage a stoned society? 

In 2014, CBS has accumulated a rather uneven record on covering pot legalization. 

Over on NBC's Today, Gabe Gutierrez covered the Times' endorsement of marijuana by pointing out that Colorado has seen a higher number of homeless in 2014: "The St. Francis Center in Denver started noticing the surge in January, shortly after Colorado started offering recreational marijuana. Now, the homeless shelter is seeing an extra 50 to 75 people a night." 

Gutierrez concluded, "Unintended consequences from what Colorado's governor has called one of the great social experiments of the century." 

A transcript of the July 28 CBS This Morning segment follows: 


7:34

GAYLE KING: This morning, the New York Times is getting heat for saying it should be okay for you do get high. What? After voters in Colorado and Washington State gave the green light for recreational use, the Times editorial board now wants the rest of the country to have the same opportunity. Jan Crawford is in Washington with the reasoning and the response. Jan, this story getting a lot of conversation. Good morning. 

JAN CRAWFORD: Well, good morning, Gayle. It really is. And the Times it's just confronting it head on, not only with that editorial you mentioned, but with articles all week and an online discussion this afternoon, saying it's time for the federal government to let states decide. The Times stated this position with the head line "Repeal prohibition again," an American flag with stars changing to marijuana leaves. 

DAVID FIRESTONE: It's true that we've never endorsed legalization of drugs before. 

CRAWFORD: David Firestone is a member of the Times editorial board. 

FIRESTONE: I don't see it as any different than having a couple of glasses of wine with dinner or a martini. If you want to make that choice as an adult, you should be allowed to make it. 

CRAWFORD: The editorial argues that the war on pot is actually worse for America than using pot, saying "the social cost of marijuana laws are vast and the result is racist," noting that enforcement falls disproportionately on young black men. Urging Congress to repeal the federal marijuana ban it also discounts the health effects, saying marijuana is "far less dangerous than alcohol." It may seem like edgy stuff from the so-called paper of record, but it reflects a sharp shift in public opinion. In the early 1990s, then-candidate Bill Clinton famously said -- 

BILL CLINTON: I didn't like it and didn't inhale. 

CRAWFORD: Most people then, 78 percent, opposed legalization. But now, only 42 percent oppose it. In recent years, 37 states, plus the District of Columbia, have liberalized marijuana laws to allow for medical use or to lesson penalties of possession. The real change started in Colorado where voters approved the sale of marijuana for recreational use, but there have been problems. Legalization has been linked to at least two deaths as well as incidents of children accidentally ingesting marijuana-laced food and staunch critics of legalization like Kevin Sabet, founder of the group Smart Approaches to Marijuana, saythose calling for legalization, like the New York Times, are wrong. 

KEVEN SABET (Smart Approaches to Marijuana): Well, what the New York Times is calling for is, really, a radical move that counters all the major medical associations that have looked at this. And it wouldn't be good for America. Do we really want to encourage a stoned society?  

CRAWFORD: Now, there were efforts in the 1970s to legalize marijuana, but it never went anywhere. And the Times acknowledges that Congress is really unlikely to act here. But it said it wanted to start the conversation, hoping for a change in the years to come. Norah? 

Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock is the senior news analyst for the Media Research Center and a contributing editor for NewsBusters.org