- 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: 39 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #960,409 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Marijuana Legalization: What Everyone Needs to Know® 1st Edition
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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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Four scholars with a background in drug policy analysis at the RAND Corporation now weigh in on the question. One could not ask for a more balanced and clear treatment of the controversy. For readers in a hurry let me reveal that three support legal weed, and one doesn't. But you'd miss a great deal if you didn't read more.
Making something illegal that a lot of people want puts a smile on the faces of criminals the world over. Drug policy is the largest reason there exists a 600 billion dollar a year drug trade. It is the reason the U.S. has the world's largest prison system. It also makes criminals out of millions of otherwise law abiding citizens who smoke marijuana.
Despite the trillion dollars spent in the War on Drugs over the last forty years, and the 750,000 marijuana arrests each year in the US, the majority of American high schoolers still report that weed is "easy to get." Half of the seniors used it in 2011. No wonder. The cost for weed use comes in at less than a dollar per stoned hour, a lot cheaper than the ticket to see The Dark Knight.
Weed is, well, a weed. It's easy to grow. A small house with grow lights can yield a retail crop of $2.5 million. In the U.S. economists estimate that weed production is in the top 15 of cash crops, on par with potatoes and grapes. If marijuana use occurs de facto, why not end its prohibition?
Not so fast, say the authors. Making weed legal is likely to increase the numbers of people dependent on it. It accounts for the second highest number of drug treatment admissions. 90% of all weed use starts by the age of 21, and evidence shows it's more harmful to the young. Our legal intoxicants, alcohol and tobacco, now cause incalculable harm. Big tobacco and liquor have shamelessly marketed to the young. Is there anyone who believes that commercial weed producers would act any better? Cold feet in Washington are the norm on this one. But legalization appears to be occurring piece meal, and that may not be such a bad thing.
These authors note, "Legalization is the opposite of prohibition. It avoids the costs of prohibition- loss of liberty, criminal enterprise, and the need for reinforcement- at the risk of increased drug abuse." In the end, it is also more honest. The claim that marijuana is medicine is largely unproven, but legalization would make it less of a battle cry and more of an interest to pharmacologists. Marijuana sales would provide tax revenues. Drug cartels would lose the weed market (but cocaine or heroin sales would still keep them in business). Drug arrests would be cut in half. Probationers and parolees would stop being returned to prison simply for smoking weed. Because persons of color are arrested for weed seven times more than whites, despite no greater use, this form of racism would vanish. As the authors note, "letting people do more of what they like doing, at lower cost and with fewer risks, fears, and penalties- ought to count, by all the canons of ordinary economic reasoning, as potential benefits of making marijuana legally available."
But legalization would still be a social experiment writ large. How many more drug dependent people would it create? Would addicts of other drugs "trade down" to a legal substitute? Could we change the focus of the War on Drugs from one of cops and crops to one of prevention and treatment? Caulkins et al. agree that permissive alcohol and tobacco laws alongside marijuana prohibition make no sense. But the authors are not street drug cowboys. The three authors supporting legal weed are unified in doing it with our eyes open. That means keeping tabs on the costs and benefits. Legalizing state by state has something to offer here, if simply because they can be compared to those where the drug is still illegal. Among the book's many good ideas is that any legalization law should have a sunset provision- a point in time when the law stops, and we all take a hard look at whether we are moving in the right direction.
To date the controversy over legal marijuana is a clash of ignorant armies. In California where it is available by prescription, the record is more Moliere than medicine. Store fronts run by grasping doctors sell letters justifying medicinal weed to anyone with a credit card. One study of 4,000 "patients" seeking medical marijuana found that they tended to be males aged 32 who had started weed as teens and had fewer disabilities than the national average. A second study found few patients were diagnosed with diseases which weed is said to help, such as neuropathic pain and AIDS. Does it work? We don't know. In place of clinical trials, weed advocates have claimed it does by a show of hands. This may be smart politics, but it's not medical science. In the meantime, any kid in America can find a joint, but the Federal government continues to keep marijuana out of the hands of researchers who could give us better answers. This book provides a good antidote for the overly zealous on both sides.
Henry David Abraham, M.D.
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.