Paul Waldman and Adam Serwer of the The American Prospect had different takes on my predictions about the likely form and conduct of a post-legalization marijuana industry.
Paul argues that the cultural meanings of cannabis will survive legalization, such that it will continue to connote youth and rebellion to most Americans. In the short term, this could very well be true, but because federal cannabis legalization would almost certainly be a non-reversible policy decision, I find myself more concerned about what society would look like in 20 years rather than in the immediate aftermath.
Adam takes that longer view regarding the repeal of Prohibition, and makes a compelling case that cultural meanings around psychoactive substances can change dramatically in response to a change in the legal regime surrounding them. I wish Mr. Peabody were available to take me back to the 1920s so that I could tell a temperance activist that in 90 years (to use Adam’s example) an African-American president would announce a beer summit, just to see which aspect of the future was more surprising to him.
More generally, Adam makes the logical liberal case that decriminalization is superior to legalization as a marijuana policy option. That more liberals — generally suspicious of corporate power — don’t come to the same conclusion is a testament to the power of cannabis to cloud the mind whether you smoke it or not.