The Future of Marijuana in the United States, 91 Oregon Law Review 1301 (2013)
In November 2012, Washington and Colorado voters approved
initiatives legalizing use and possession of small quantities of
marijuana. Before that, eighteen states had legalized medical use of
marijuana with differing levels of regulation. Since then, two more
states have approved medical marijuana. Today, many people hope—
for a range of reasons—that more states and the federal government
will decriminalize and eventually legalize marijuana. However, the
pendulums of public opinion and political inclinations have swung
this way before. In the mid-1970s, the views of Americans on
marijuana were strikingly similar to those views today.
Decriminalizaion of possession and use of small amounts of
marijuana at both the state and the federal levels appeared to be
imminent and inevitable. A fierce backlash at the beginning of the
l980s, however, produced repeals of decriminalization by the states
and sharp increases in federal criminal penalties and prosecutions.
Such a change in direction can occur again. It is, however, much
clearer today than nearly a half century ago that marijuana prohibition
was a tragic mistake. No rational analysis of the costs of marijuana
prohibition can support its retention. Unless reform occurs at the
federal level, though, state-level reforms face a myriad of limitations
and uncertainties. Repeal at the federal level may be constrained by
international treaties, which permit decriminalization but may not
allow outright legalization. If so, the United States should seek to
eliminate marijuana prohibition at the international level as it replaces
prohibition with regulation in its own drug laws.
Date of Authorship for this Version
Duke, Steven B., "The Future of Marijuana in the United States" (2013). Faculty Scholarship Series. Paper 4842.