Whether and how to legalize marijuana it is one of those issues that the presidential contenders get asked about quite a lot by average voters out on the trail but that seldom makes the cut of “serious” subjects that the press deems worth of covering. That’s too bad because each of the candidates has staked out positions on the matter which, with variations, mostly consist of punting the decision to the states.
Two years ago, the Washington Monthly published a cover package of stories that took a counter-conventional view on the issue. We argued that cannabis should be legalized, but with a much heavier regulatory regime than most states are considering–and than most pro-pot libertarians favor. In fact, lead writer Mark Kleiman argued, the federal government ought to step in and set strong ground rules for how states regulate marijuana in order to minimize the potential negative health consequences and to forestall a corporate takeover of the industry.
Though none of the candidates has taken up our idea, evidence from the handful of states that have already legalized pot mostly supports our case, I think. But whether you agree or disagree, if this is an issue you’re interested in, you should consider attending the Cannabis Science and Policy Summit that Kleiman and his colleagues at New York University are holding on April 17th and 18th. The event is being sponsored by NYU’s Marron Institute on Urban Management in partnership with the RAND Corporation, NORML, and a number of other organizations representing the full spectrum of expert opinion on the issue. If you can’t make the conference, a video of it will eventually be available here.
Meanwhile, you should also pre-order a copy of Marijuana Legalization: What Everyone Needs to Know. It’s the second (and heavily updated) version of a book by some of the same authors–including Kleiman and Jonathan P. Caulkins–who contributed to our cover package. Basically, it’s the book you need to read if you’re serious about marijuana legalization and how to do it right.