Marijuana legalization book

Shipping now.

Oxford is shipping copies of Marijuana Legalization: What Everyone Needs to Know.

Tom Schelling’s blurb (from the jacket) has us all walking on air:

Here is a book by four leading experts who collaborate in answering questions about marijuana and its possible legalization. Everything you might want to ask, answered crisply and accurately! And the four authors give, at the end, their separate recommendations: they differ, but they’ve agreed on 149 answers. A remarkable collaboration, and a pioneering format worth emulating.

As with Drugs and Drug Policy, it’s organized as an FAQ, so the list of questions (in full at the jump) provides a complete outline.

The book breaks lots of new ground. Two big surprises are how cheap legal pot would be (pennies per joint, before tax) and how central to the benefit-cost calculus the effects of marijuana legalization on heavy drinking turn out to be, just because heavy drinking is so much bigger a problem than either cannabis abuse or illicit cannabis dealing and enforcement. The problem is there’s no way to guess, from current data, which way the effect would go.


1. What is marijuana and what would it mean to legalize it?
What is marijuana legalization?
What is marijuana?
How does it feel to get high?
What are the active ingredients in marijuana?
What are sinsemilla, “commercial grade” marijuana, ditchweed, and hash oil?
Has marijuana been getting stronger?
Is higher potency bad?
Does increasing potency argue against legalization, or for it?
How long does intoxication last?
For how long can marijuana use be detected?
Is medical marijuana the same as illegal marijuana?
What is synthetic marijuana (Spice or K2)?

2. Who uses marijuana?
How many people use marijuana?
How is marijuana typically consumed?
How has the nature of marijuana use changed over time?
How much marijuana do users consume?
Can marijuana use lead to dependence or addiction?
What are the typical patterns of marijuana use?
How common is heavy marijuana use?
How does marijuana use vary across the country?
What share of marijuana use is high-potency marijuana?
How much do users spend on marijuana?

3. How is marijuana produced and distributed today?
How and where is marijuana grown today?
How is marijuana currently distributed?
How much is marijuana marked up between farmgate, wholesale, and retail?
Are prices lower in the Netherlands? California? Elsewhere?
Since marijuana is just a plant, why is it so expensive?
Is marijuana really the nation’s leading cash crop?
Does marijuana production really use $5 billion worth of electricity in the U.S. each year?

4. How stringent is marijuana enforcement in the U.S.?
When did marijuana become illegal in the United States?
Who gets arrested for marijuana possession?
What happens after those arrests?
Who gets arrested for marijuana dealing, production, and importing?
Are federal marijuana sentences similar to sentences for cocaine and heroin?
How many people are in prison for marijuana offenses?
How much does marijuana incarceration and enforcement cost?
How much marijuana is seized and eradicated?

5. What are the risks of using marijuana?
Why is it difficult to measure the consequences of marijuana use?
How do researchers study the risks of marijuana use?
What is the likelihood of becoming dependent on marijuana?
How bad is marijuana dependency compared to dependency on other drugs?
Do users seek treatment for problems with marijuana?
Does marijuana treatment work?
Can users experience a fatal overdose from marijuana?
Can users experience a non-fatal overdose from using too much marijuana?
Does marijuana use cause emphysema and other respiratory problems?
Does smoking marijuana cause cancer?
Are their second-hand smoke risks of marijuana?
Is marijuana a “gateway drug”?
Does using marijuana cause schizophrenia and other mental health problems?
Does using marijuana influence crime and delinquency?
Does marijuana use affect education and employment outcomes?
Does marijuana use cause automobile crashes?
Does parental marijuana use influence child welfare?
6. What is known about the non-medicinal benefits of using marijuana?
Why don’t we know more about the benefits of cannabis use?
Would we know more about the benefits of cannabis if it were legal?
Is there a “stoned” way of thinking?
Is “stoned thinking” valuable?
Does cannabis use enhance creativity?
What role does cannabis play in worship?
So there’s no real evidence of any benefits?
Why should mere pleasure count as a benefit?

7. What are the medicinal benefits of using marijuana?
Does marijuana have medical value?
Why isn’t marijuana available as a regular prescription drug?
But isn’t smoking unhealthy?
How about using one or more cannabinoids instead of the whole plant?
How much “medical marijuana” use is actually medical?


8. What are the pros and cons of legalization generally?
What does it mean to legalize a drug?
Are there shades of legalization?
Why have drug laws in the first place?
Why even consider legalizing a substance whose use creates harm?
Wouldn’t the results of a policy that treated marijuana like alcohol be an improvement on the current mess?
But wasn’t alcohol prohibition in the United States a complete failure?
But everyone knows that Prohibition led to a big increase in homicides.
How much of the increase in consumption after legalization would reflect increased heavy use rather than increased casual use?
Can’t the effects of marketing be reined in by regulations and taxes?
What about legal availability without free trade? Couldn’t that work?
Isn’t it impossible to make someone better off by coercing behavioral change? If people want drugs, doesn’t depriving them of drugs make them worse off by definition?
If people choose to harm themselves with drugs, why is that anyone else’s business?
But isn’t everyone with an addictive personality already addicted to something?
If the results of legalization are uncertain, why not just try it out, and go back to the current system if legalization doesn’t work?

9. How is legalization of marijuana different from legalization of other drugs?
How does legalizing cannabis compare to legalizing all drugs?
Isn’t cannabis different from other drugs? It’s natural, it’s not addictive, and it’s not toxic.
If marijuana accounts for half of all drug arrests, would legalizing marijuana free up half our prison cells?
How much drug-related crime, violence, and corruption would marijuana legalization eliminate?
Would legalization increase marijuana use and dependence by as much as legalization of crack and other drugs would increase their markets?
Would more marijuana use lead to more alcohol abuse, or less?
If alcohol is more dangerous than cannabis, what’s the logical justification for one being legal and the other illegal?
Can it be sensible to support legalizing marijuana but not other drugs?
Can two reasonable people sensibly disagree about marijuana legalization?

10. What is the context of the legalization debate?
How does legalization differ from decriminalization or depenalization?
How many countries allow commercial marijuana production?
Has support for legalization in the U.S. been growing?
Who supports and opposes marijuana legalization in the U.S.?
Who supported Proposition 19 and why?
Why are voters sometimes bolder than the people they elect?
Would marijuana legalization violate international conventions?
Does Dutch cannabis policy violate these international conventions?
What are the consequences for violating international conventions?
Could these international treaties be changed?

11. What if marijuana were treated like alcohol?
What special regulations could apply to legal marijuana?
Could advertising be restricted in the U.S.?
How could marijuana be taxed?
Would regulations and taxes in practice approach the public health ideal?
How much enforcement would regulation and taxation require?
Would there be any marijuana arrests after legalization?
Why aren’t prices in Dutch coffeeshops and California medical dispensaries a good indication of prices after legalization?
How much would legal marijuana cost to produce?
How many people would be employed in marijuana production?
What would the pre-tax retail price be for unbranded marijuana?
What would the after-tax retail price be for unbranded marijuana?
What would the retail price be for branded and other forms of marijuana?
Would businesses give legal marijuana away free?
How much would consumption increase?
Does the marijuana trade fund drug violence in Mexico?
Does legalization make sense from an overall social welfare (benefit-cost) perspective?

12. Could one state in the U.S. legalize marijuana if the federal government didn’t?
Could a state simply repeal its marijuana laws?
Could a state regulate and tax a substance that the federal government still prohibited?
What about the reverse: If the Federal government legalized marijuana, could a state still prohibit it?
What could the federal government do if one state legalizes marijuana for non-medical use?
What is the federal government doing in states that allow medical marijuana?
How would production and production costs change if marijuana were legal in one state but not the entire country?
How would legalization in one state affect markets and use in other states?
Does it matter whether legalization is by law or voter proposition?
Could states learn from one another’s experience?

13. How would marijuana legalization affect me personally?
How would legalization affect me if I’m an adult regular marijuana user?
How would legalization affect me if I’m dependent on marijuana?
How would legalization affect me if I’m an occasional marijuana user?
How would legalization affect me if I’m not currently a marijuana user?
How would legalization affect me if I’m a medical marijuana patient?
How would legalization affect me if I’m a marijuana grower?
How would legalization affect me if I lead a Mexican Drug Trafficking Organization (DTO)?
How would legalization affect me if I’m a parent of a teenager?
How would legalization affect me if I’m an employer?

14. Between marijuana prohibition and commercial legalization:
Is there any middle ground?
Is there a middle-ground between legalization and prohibition?
What has been learned from depenalization and decriminalization?
What about legalizing the way Portugal did (not do)?
What about imitating the Dutch approach?
What about just allowing home production, as Alaska does?
What about allowing user co-ops, as in Spain?
What about a very liberal medical marijuana system?
What about limiting the quantity any user can buy?
Couldn’t users go to physicians for non-medical cannabis, making it the doctor’s business to prevent problem-use patterns?
What if distribution were controlled by a government monopoly?

15. Can industrial hemp save the planet? (with Christina Farber)
What is industrial hemp?
Do other countries allow legalized hemp?
Could the U.S. allow industrial hemp without legalizing marijuana?
Would allowing industrial hemp in the U.S. save the planet?
How big is the potential market if the U.S. legalized industrial hemp?

16. What do the authors think about marijuana legalization?

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:

10 thoughts on “Marijuana legalization book”

  1. No, I think the problem is the American gulag and its advocates, who demand a certainty about the good consequences of drug peace that they have never demanded from the tiniest single element of the drug war.

    1. Yeah, basically.

      I’m quite willing to concede that there’s going to be more marijuana users with legalization, and that to the extent that smoking pot has negative effects (and it may), that’s going to increase those effects. Just as liver disease decreased during Prohibition.

      The problem is, there’s just no way to have that conversation as long as the people in charge have no respect for freedom and risk-taking whatsoever when it comes to substances they associate with hippies. As long as the people in charge want to keep it illegal simply because of animus against people who enjoy the use of narcotics for recreational purposes, there is no productive conversation to be had. Get rid of those people and then we can discuss harm reduction. I actually suspect that the ideal set of regulations will be something like those in place for tobacco– lots of warning labels and restrictions and taxes combined with a recognition of the basic right to use drugs if one wishes to.

      1. The people in charge do not have an animus against hippies. The people in charge have an animus against losing elections. The blame properly belongs to the voters, and the special interests who rely on the War Against Drugsâ„¢ for their livelihood and/or profits. I think that the voters blame drugs–rather than the labor market–for all risks to their children.

        1. = = = The blame properly belongs to the voters = = =

          Help me understand how the voters of Colorado are responsible for the Obama Administration sending armies of DEA agents into their state to nullify the voters’ decision on personal use of marijuana.


        2. I think it’s both, Ebenezer. The type of people who have been appointed as drug czars, and the DEA and FDA people, have tended to be very hard core drug warriors with no respect for personal liberty. The idea that the pleasure someone obtains by taking a drug should count for something is completely lost on them– it’s all just a matter of putting on as big a squeeze as possible in order to stop use entirely.

          Now, is that partly a reflection of public opinion? Sure. But public opinion also supports allowing cancer patients to SMOKE pot. These people are well beyond public opinion, because they hate the entire idea of chemically induced pleasure. It really is a DFH issue.

  2. Mark — congratulations to you Jon, Angela and Beau on an exceptional contribution to the debate. Many people will just trade soundbites and the usual tired rants, but wiser heads will read what you are your co-authors have written and that is a very good thing.

  3. “The problem is there’s no way to guess, from current data, which way the effect would go.”

    Why couldn’t we just use the data we have on primary drugs of choice of Americans admitted for substance abuse treatment over the last two decades? According to SAMHSA, alcohol or alcohol with a secondary drug accounted for 59.3% of all treatment admissions in 1992 (coincidentally, the year in which teen marijuana use hit its lowest point since surveys began). By 2009, alcohol, with or without a secondary drug, accounted for only 41.6% of admissions. During the same period, the percentage of patients in treatment listing marijuana as their primary drug of choice increased from 5.9% to 18.1%

    Given that there was little change in the percentage of the over-12 population receiving treatment for substance abuse (0.74% in 1992 and 0.78% in 2009), it doesn’t seem particulary far-fetched to conclude that marijuana has partially displaced alcohol as a drug of choice among problem drug users (the group of greatest concern).

    Treatment admissions, 1992:
    Treatment admissions, 2009:
    (To see data for other years, change the final two digits before ‘.htm’.)

  4. Mark,

    Just finished reading the book. Really great stuff: extremely informative, well argued, very readable. I’ll be writing a review on my blog tomorrow. I’ll post here the link when it’s done.

    Best regards,

Comments are closed.