Drug policy was a hyper-polarized topic before hyper-polarization was in fashion. The level of venom directed by “drug warriors” against “legalizers” (both of them labels strongly rejected by the people they’re pinned on) is astounding, with otherwise sane people prepared to take seriously truly birther-level fantasies. (Marijuana is illegal because DuPont wanted to replace hemp rope with nylon; George Soros supports drug policy reform because he hopes to make money speculating in marijuana futures. No, seriously. People believe this crap. Passionately.) And the poor drug policy analysts usually get it from both sides; I’ve been accused, alternately, of being a closet legalizer and of being on the take from the drug warriors.
So it’s a pleasant surprise when an analytic book gets favorable treatment from anyone but another analyst. Marijuana Legalization has now drawn two positive reviews: one from the Weekly Standard (mostly behind a paywall) and the other from Drug War Chronicle, the blog of StopTheDrugWar.org.
I haven’t met Phillip Smith, the reviewer, but he and I see eye-to-eye on the ethics and tactics of advocacy:
The careful, balanced tone of Marijuana Legalization is something that legalization advocates might want to strive for. This holds doubly true for claims about the impacts of marijuana legalization that might not hold up to scrutiny. For instance, Proposition 19 advocates may have overstated the impact that legalization in California would have on Mexican drug cartels, only to have opponents come back and undercut those claims. Likewise, claims that our prisons are filled with pot-smokers are unsupported by the facts. That anyone is in prison for marijuana is bad enough — and the authors say 40,000 people are — but overstating the negatives of even some aspects of prohibition does not aid the cause in the long run.
The review isn’t entirely uncritical; Smith doesn’t like our treatment of the “gateway” question. But it’s serious and fair-minded. No author could ask for more.