Waldman and Serwer on Marijuana Inc.

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.

Author: Keith Humphreys

Keith Humphreys is the Esther Ting Memorial Professor of Psychiatry at Stanford University and an Honorary Professor of Psychiatry at Kings College London. His research, teaching and writing have focused on addictive disorders, self-help organizations (e.g., breast cancer support groups, Alcoholics Anonymous), evaluation research methods, and public policy related to health care, mental illness, veterans, drugs, crime and correctional systems. Professor Humphreys' over 300 scholarly articles, monographs and books have been cited over thirteen thousand times by scientific colleagues. He is a regular contributor to Washington Post and has also written for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Monthly, San Francisco Chronicle, The Guardian (UK), The Telegraph (UK), Times Higher Education (UK), Crossbow (UK) and other media outlets.

5 thoughts on “Waldman and Serwer on Marijuana Inc.”

  1. Could be an opportunity for severe restrictions on advertising that progressives then use to advocate for similar restrictions on corporate advertising for other products – intoxicants and those aimed at children. I think restricting corporate advertising could be a good way to split off the “pro-family” vote from conservative issues. Here’s our wedge to show it works.

  2. Brian, the Supreme Court is not friendly to limits on advertising that are “unrelated to the preservation of a fair bargaining process,” as opposed to those designed “to protect consumers from misleading, deceptive, or aggressive sales practices.” Requiring warning labels is fine, but paternalistically keeping truthful information from consumers is frowned upon.

  3. I’m a liberal, and I like corporations. They will make the product cheaper and safer and with more consistent quality, and ensure widespread distribution.

    If the idea is to make a political statement, fine, decriminalize. If the idea is to actually allow people to enjoy themselves and get medical marijuana when they need it, legalization is the way to go.

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