Jacob Sullum on the War Over Weed


In November, voters in Colorado and Washington approved groundbreaking ballot initiatives legalizing marijuana for recreational use. The measures immediately eliminated penalties for possessing up to an ounce and required state regulators to adopt rules for commercial production and sale by next July in Colorado and next December in Washington. Meanwhile, recent national surveys put support for legalization at 50 percent or more—the highest numbers ever recorded.

In this context of unprecedented public receptiveness to repealing cannabis prohibition, writes Senior Editor Jacob Sullum, four centrist drug policy specialists—Jonathan Caulkins of Carnegie Mellon, Angela Hawken of Pepperdine, Beau Kilmer of the RAND Corporation, and Mark Kleiman of UCLA—have published Marijuana Legalization, a handy little paperback that aims to tell us "What Everyone Needs to Know" about the subject. Assiduously dedicated to a utilitarian, just-the-facts approach, Caulkins and his co-authors consider marijuana's benefits as well as its hazards, the harm caused by prohibition as well as the harm it prevents, the impact that legalization is apt to have not only on pot smoking but also on drinking, and the fiscal advantages, in terms of new tax revenue and lower law enforcement costs, of treating marijuana more like alcohol.