Friends coming from afar

Drug War Chronicle, a project of, gives a respectful review to our new marijuana legalization book.

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

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.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact:

4 thoughts on “Friends coming from afar”

  1. You might want to put in a hyperlink to second review, though it’s easy enough to select-copy-search for.

  2. Alrite, Mr. Kleiman – I’m buying your book. Not that I wouldn’t of anyways – “Drugs and Drug Policy” was everything I expected, so no issues sharing my hard earned money. Being one who has to listen almost daily to the amazingly disorganized thinking of teens on the subject of cannabis (a confused and sometimes confusing mishmash of clear intuitive perception and wildly distorted mythology) I’m always open to reliable narratives that reinforce clarity, attenuate distortion, and place authority for this issue where it belongs – in the hands of experienced, knowledgeable elders. The pueri aeterni and Principled Peters have wreaked their narcissistic havoc; it’s time for the adults to step up.

    1. Steven:
      Brilliant analysis of teenaged thinking in general: “a confused and sometimes confusing mishmash of clear intuitive perception and wildly distorted mythology”. Kudos!

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