Join 3,558 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Marijuana Policy Study
June 30, 2010 7:33 AM   Subscribe

I'm going to be starting up a new research agenda on the economics of marijuana policy with an undergraduate student this fall, and I'm looking for materials which can help both me and my student navigate through the legal jungle that is US marijuana policy. I had a few questions.

1. What scholarly sources do we definitely need to begin with? I am primarily interested in legal-historical, non-hysterical, non-advocacy writings. Preferably published articles or books. The focus of our study will ultimately be on contemporary economic policy, and mainly medical marijuana laws.

2. I do not have a JD, though I do have a PhD in economics. That said, I have a very dim understanding of how laws work concrete in the US, and while this does not always pose a problem, for marijuana policy it repeatedly does. For instance, I do not understand even simple things like how it is possible that a local ordinance can make marijuana legal (for instance, Boulder Colorado), but simultaneously there exists federal laws making those laws illegal. Can someone suggest a primer with a legal conceptual framework to help me understand how these various levels of jurisdiction operate together, particularly as it relates to illicit substances?

3. Finally, on the relevant scientific theories regarding marijuana. Ultimately this study will attempt to identify the effect of legislative changes on social outcomes, such as crime, "gateway drug" movement into harder drugs, productivity, and other things to the degree these legislative changes can function econometrically to identify the effect of exogenous changes in marijuana access on those outcomes. But as I attempt to read through the literature, I'm constantly confronted with a huge amount of advocacy papers, and being new to this area, I was wanting some help focusing on what is considered essential, reliable reading. What are the definitive scientific papers on the effects of marijuana that we definitely need to be aware of?

4. In your opinion, what do you think is the unanswered and relevant policy questions regarding marijuana policy in the US?
posted by scunning to Law & Government (11 answers total)
 
I no longer keep current on these issues, but you should look into MAPS.

A lot of the work they do focuses on (other) psychedlics, but they are concerned with marijuana policy.
posted by bilabial at 7:36 AM on June 30, 2010


Get in touch with Jeffrey Miron, who's an expert in this issue, though he has adopted a stance (for legalization).

Although. can you clarify what you mean by "economics of marijuana policy"?
posted by daksya at 8:11 AM on June 30, 2010


What scholarly sources do we definitely need to begin with?

Marijuana and Medicine: Assessing the Science Base

Understanding Marijuana: A New Look at the Scientific Evidence

The Science of Marijuana

The Report of the National Commission on Marihuana and Drug Abuse, a.k.a. Shafer Report

The Consumers Union Report - Licit and Illicit Drugs

The first three will cover "the definitive scientific papers on the effects of marijuana". The bibliographies of the first three should also net you many other leads. The latter two reports are much, much older, but being familiar with them (especially the Shafer Report) will help put your research in perspective.

I'd also recommend Dying to Get High: Marijuana as Medicine. Dying to Get High is probably not what you'd call scholarly, despite being written by a sociologist... but if you're going to understand medical marijuana policy in America, you should be familiar with WAMM's legal travails, and there's no better book for it.

I haven't read these, but they look like promising resources on the legal end of things:

Medical Use of Marijuana: Policy, Regulatory and Legal Issues

Cannabis Policy: Moving Beyond Stalemate

Legalizing Marijuana: Drug Policy Reform and Prohibition Politics

Cannabis Policy, Implementation And Outcomes

I would also suggest contacting MPP. They're the largest and most effective marijuana policy org in America, so they might be able to provide you with some advice.
posted by vorfeed at 11:06 AM on June 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


daksya - By "economics of marijuana policy", I'm primarily referring to studies of the legislation that opens up access to marijuana and/or regulates the production and distribution of it in the United States. I am mainly thinking of variation in state, federal and municipal ordinances for medical marijuana, but I wasn't sure if there was more.
posted by scunning at 12:58 PM on June 30, 2010


vorfeed - huge. Thanks a million. This is exactly the starting point list I needed. Much appreciative.
posted by scunning at 12:59 PM on June 30, 2010


Vorfeed has great answers.

Jeffery Miron is definitely the best-known researcher in marijuana economics. Some other good people to talk to: Craig Reinarman at UCSC; Harry Levine; Rob Maccoun at UC Berkeley; and Mitch Earlywine. They are among the people I would call with your questions.

One quibble with vorfeed: MPP does great work, but the hands-down best organization on medical access is Americans for Safe Access. They have the best compilation of medical cannabis laws by state.

A couple of comments - forgive me if you already know all this. There is no federal medical cannabis law. State laws vary quite a bit, and people who are experts on one state's laws may not know much about another state's. Local ordinances may modify state laws in various ways, with California having some of the most variation from locality to locality. Local ordinances do not in fact make marijuana legal anywhere. What can be done at the local level includes things like making enforcement of mj laws the lowest law enforcement priority. Raich v Ashcroft essentially gave states the ability to create access to, and regulate, medical cannabis. There's been all kinds of litigation to flesh out what can and can't be done under state laws, but again, it varies quite a bit from state to state. Also, and again apologies if you already have this, medical cannabis legislation is a bit of a different animal from straight-up legalization, and you'll probably want to be specific about what you're working on.

A bibliography on medical cannabis.

This is not my primary area of focus, but it's related, and I'm happy to help with resources or referrals if I can. I'd certainly love to see what you and your student come up with!
posted by gingerbeer at 9:24 PM on June 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


gingerbeer: Raich v Ashcroft essentially gave states the ability to create access to, and regulate, medical cannabis.

Quite the opposite. The Feds won that case. To wit: Gonzales v. Raich (previously Ashcroft v. Raich), 545 U.S. 1 (2005), was a case in which the United States Supreme Court ruled on June 6, 2005 that ... Congress may ban home-grown cannabis even where states approve its use for medicinal purposes", thus there's no cover provided to the states.
posted by daksya at 9:55 PM on June 30, 2010


Local ordinances do not in fact make marijuana legal anywhere. What can be done at the local level includes things like making enforcement of mj laws the lowest law enforcement priority.

In addition to this, it's worth making the general point that there are different levels of law. Even if there's some place where marijuana isn't a crime under state or local law, there'd still be federal law, federal prosecutors, and federal courts. You can never confidently say "X is legal in Springfield" without researching federal in addition to state and local law. If you don't know the federal law, the most you can say is: "It's not illegal there under state or local law." (I should add that I am not well-informed about marijuana law anywhere -- these are just general concepts about how the law works.)
posted by Jaltcoh at 4:40 AM on July 1, 2010


The US government won the Raich case, but the decision did not invalidate Prop 215, or find it unconstitutional, and allowed California law to stand. That decision is generally interpreted as allowing states to pass legislation on medical access, and since most enforcement of drug laws takes place at the state and local level, state laws provide significant, although certainly not complete, protection for patients.
posted by gingerbeer at 10:57 AM on July 1, 2010


gingerbeer: the decision did not invalidate Prop 215, or find it unconstitutional, and allowed California law to stand.

The issue of state law was not in question in Raich.

Again,
"Rather, respondents' challenge is actually quite limited; they argue that the CSA's categorical prohibition of the manufacture and possession of marijuana as applied to the intrastate manufacture and possession of marijuana for medical purposes pursuant to California law exceeds Congress' authority under the Commerce Clause.

The reach of federal law was the issue at hand, and the Feds won.

since most enforcement of drug laws takes place at the state and local level, state laws provide significant, although certainly not complete, protection for patients.

This was true even before Raich.

In short, what I'm disputing is

Raich v Ashcroft essentially gave states the ability to create access to, and regulate, medical cannabis.

This was already the case prior, so Raich didn't enable anything. It essentially reaffirmed the existing dissonance between federal and state law. I suspect "decision is generally interpreted as allowing states to pass legislation on medical access" is a case of wishful thinking to find the glass half-full.
posted by daksya at 12:40 PM on July 1, 2010


I'm not sure this dialogue is exactly answering scunning's question, other than to point out some of the grey areas of the law. You're welcome to label it wishful thinking, daksya, and states will continue to pass medical cannabis laws.
posted by gingerbeer at 2:29 PM on July 1, 2010


« Older What is a reasonable (Australi...   |  How can I improve myself? Prob... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.