- Series: What Everyone Needs to Know
- Paperback: 288 pages
- Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (July 13, 2012)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0199913730
- ISBN-13: 978-0199913732
- Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 0.6 x 5.4 inches
- Shipping Weight: 14.7 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 38 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #812,009 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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In this nonpartisan book (the authors themselves, all public-policy academics, don’t even personally hold the same viewpoints), readers will learn about the risks and benefits of marijuana legalization. The work outlines marijuana basics in a Q&A format—such as “Has marijuana been getting more potent?” and “Is marijuana really the nation’s leading cash crop?”—and considers legal and personal ramifications, from distribution to taxation to addiction. A valuable primer for anyone interested in the current debate about the war on drugs. --Rebecca Vnuk
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Some of the facts covered here:
Americans are increasingly open to the idea. Rasmussen released a poll in May, 2012 which found that 56 percent of Americans were in favor of "legalizing marijuana and regulating it in a similar manner to the way alcohol and tobacco cigarettes are regulated today." Older Americans tended to be much more negative than younger Americans, so it may be that the pressure to legalize will continue to grow.
A key analysis: legal Marijuana might be incredibly cheap. As the authors point out, marijuana is a nonperishable bulk commodity like wheat, corn, coffee and tea. For those kinds of commodities, cost of production is the key driver. Modern American agriculture and its related packaging and transportation methods are incredibly efficient, especially on a large scale and in areas conducive to large yields.
Canada produces industrial hemp industry for about $500 per acre. If mid-grade commercial marijuana (a similar plant) could be grown at that cost, the price to the consumer would be about 20 cents per pound. Better grades of marijuana would cost more; as the authors write: "production costs for crops that need to be transplanted, such as cherry tomatoes and asparagus, are generally in the range of $5,000-$20,000 per acre." Those more labor intensive crops suggest a consumer price of under $20 per pound to less than $5 a pound depending on quality. Those prices compare with price of "other legal herbs such as tea or tobacco ... 100 times lower than the current prevailing price of $300 per ounce --- or a few cents per joint."
Whether you support or oppose legalization, this data is useful: increases in consumption might be very high, but tax revenues might be significantly higher as well. Federal cigarette taxes bring in about $10 billion a year, but the authors believe legalization couldn't yield revenues at that level.
Nonetheless, it is very helpful to have firm data from which to reach policy decisions, and the authors provide that sort of information -- not only on the costs of production and possible tax revenues, but on other possible benefits -- and disadvantages. This book is essential reading for anyone interested in the issues.
Robert C. Ross
Addendum: It may be worth mentioning that I have never used marijuana -- my drug of choice is five to ten glasses of red wine a week -- but the issue of legalization seems very important to me as a policy matter. R.
The book is divided into two sections: 'Marijana and Prohibition Today' and 'Legalization and its Consequences'. The chapters pose questions such as, 'How is marijuana produced and distributed today?', 'What is known about the nonmedical benefits of using marijuana?', 'What if marijuana was treated like alcohol?' and so on. Importantly, the authors do not dumb down the issues, resort to polemics or cajole us to join any one side of the argument. Although we might come to understand that reasonable people can disagree on specific points, the plain facts of the failed prohibition policies and the relative benign characteristics of marijuana consumption inexorably move us forward to a place where we can imagine real reform.
I believe the book offers a number of valuable takeaways. As can be seen in the case of California's medical marijuana laws, the authors argue that referendums do not always produce the best policies; they believe it would be far preferable to legislate policy through open, deliberative processes. The authors suggest that we should avoid a marketplace dominated by a few large, profit-maximizing corporations who would probably encourage user dependency through insidious marketing practices; instead, it might be far more preferable to empower community-based coops or perhaps local government monopolies on production and trade to ensure greater product quality, consistency and reasonable end user prices. In any case, the authors provide evidence that legalization might best be achieved if the federal government backs away and allows individual states to experiment with their various reforms; whereupon the most successful ones could be subsequently adapted by other states.
Interestingly, we learn that perhaps the biggest wildcard pertaining to legalized weed is alcohol. Although the authors largely debunk the inflated cost savings to the criminal justice system that might be achieved through the relaxation of marijuana laws, they stress that we can not know with certainty if the inevitable increase in marijuana use that will come about through legalization will encourage greater use of alcohol (or for that matter, other illegal drugs), or not. Recognizing of course that alcohol is the far more destructive drug (see also Marijuana is Safer: So Why Are We Driving People to Drink?), the authors caution that any potential benefits gained through legalizing marijuana could be more than offset if alcohol consumption increases in tandem.
In the final chapter, the four authors offer their opinions on what might be done. It should be noted that none are in favor of the status quo; the individual authors simply differ on the degree of legalization they recommend implementing at this point in time. As noted, the authors stress that legalization should be a closely-monitored process where the unforeseen consequences that might ensue from poorly-written policies can be corrected. With hundreds of pages of thoughtful discussion and analysis, it is difficult not to agree with the author's thoroughly reasonable conclusions; especially on the many specific points where a general consensus has been reached.
I highly recommend this outstanding book to everyone.