The James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy: A Hotbed of Antiprohibitionism?


This is interesting: Rice University's James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy, named for (and officially chaired by) an elder statesman who served prominent roles in the administrations of two gung-ho drug warriors (Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush), has a Drug Policy Program. This is more interesting: Last week the director of that program, William Martin, posted an essay on the institute's blog making the case for marijuana legalization:

More than 100 million people in this country have tried marijuana at some point. More than 28 million will do so this year. It will not make them dangerous or more interesting. It should not make them criminals….

The greatest harms associated with cannabis are not the effects of the drug but of our drug policies….

In Texas, we could lower possession of small amounts of cannabis from Class B to Class C misdemeanor status — essentially the level of a traffic violation. This would avoid much of the inconvenience and expense for both offender and state and eliminate the stigma of a criminal conviction, but, like lowest-priority measures, it would still leave the profits in the pockets of criminals.

A better way would be to legalize marijuana outright, to remove any taint of lawbreaking and reduce the chances of capricious or discriminatory enforcement….

If Texas, famous for its independent spirit and conservative mien, were to legalize marijuana, the world would take note, and great and beneficial change would sweep across the country.

The Baker Institute invited responses from six people, only two of whom—Joan Neuhaus Schaan, the institute's fellow in homeland security and terrorism, and former ONDCP official Kevin Sabet, who now heads the Drug Policy Institute at the University of Florida College of Medicine—really take issue with Martin's argument. It's almost enough to make you feel bad for the drug warriors.

Further clues to the Drug Policy Program's sympathies can be found at its "Drug Truth Archive," which was assembled by Dean Becker, a radio host who specializes in interviewing critics of the war on drugs. The archive, which is definitely worth poking around in if you're interested in the subject, includes audio files and transcripts for more than 600 shows going back to 2006, featuring critics such as Ron Paul, John Stossel, the Drug Policy Alliance's Ethan Nadelmann, former Baltimore Mayor Kurt Schmoke, medical marijuana expert Todd Mikuriya, Rick Doblin of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, addiction expert Stanton Peele, "Prince of Pot" Marc Emery, NORML's Paul Armentano, and Eric Sterling of the Criminal Justice Policy Foundation. (I am in there a few times too.) It's a wealth of antiprohibitionist material in a surprising place.

[Thanks to Allen. St. Pierre for the tip.]

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  1. It will not make them dangerous or more interesting.


    1. I said to a guy, “Tell me, what is it about cocaine that makes it so wonderful,” and he said, “Because it intensifies your personality.” I said, “Yes, but what if you’re an asshole?”

      1. i remember that routine

    2. yea, for that you need Dos Equis

  2. Holy shit. I have a better resume than this broad. Why am I not working for some cushy think tank at Rice?…..s/jneuhaus

    1. I thought you were kidding, and then I clicked. I didn’t know that ‘Letters to the Chron’ got put in the “Publications” portion of your C.V. Shit, at that point, why not put blog posts in?

      I wouldn’t mind working at Rice either. Start a blog, get some grants, work on a monograph or three on deterrence theory in a multiple actor world. Have an office shaded by those ginormous oaks they have everywhere. Nice gig.

      1. Hey the whole school isn’t just the institute. Your typical liberal faculty sure but the Institute was full of uptight assholes. The oaks and the campus in general are lovely. Unfortunately not many around the Institute building.

        1. I don’t even know where the Institute’s building is. Other than I don’t think it’s on the way to Valhalla.

          But, damn, you can’t swing a dead cat on that campus without hitting a 300 year old oak tree.

          That said, who in academia puts letters to the editor of the local newspaper in their CV?

          1. Yes its only on the way to Valhalla if you are coming from the baseball or basketball stadium.

            I would guess not many.

      2. “she was chaired as the Thomas Cook and Mary Elizabeth Edwards Fellow for Terrorism at Rice University”

        Probably could have worded that title a little better.

  3. We’ll get there… faster with progressives in power, of course.

    I’m sure President Romney will appreciate the nuances of this issue, what with his dabbling in such naughty substances as soft-serve vanilla ice cream and fried potato crisps.

    1. “We’ll get there… faster with progressives in power, of course.”

      haha good one Tony. I don’t know who’s funnier, conservatives promising to be fiscally responsible, or progressives promising an end to the drug war

      1. Libertarians who think their hot air amounts to political action ftw.

        1. Once again, the lack of self-awareness is astounding

    2. Nah, you’ll just replace the War On Drugs with the War On Other Stuff Poor People Like, such as sugar, tobacco, etc.

  4. American taxpayers are being forced to pay $40 Billion a year for a prohibition that causes 10,000 brutal murders 800,000 needless arrests every year, but which doesn’t even stop CHILDREN from getting marijuana.

    After seventy years of prohibition, it’s obvious that the federal marijuana prohibition causes FAR more harm than good and must END! Drug Dealers Don’t Card, Supermarkets Do.

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