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.]