Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform

Editor: Douglas A. Berman
Moritz College of Law

Sunday, May 16, 2021

"Five Decades of Marijuana Decriminalization"

Marijuana-Decriminalization_project-headerThe title of the title for this great new resource page from the the Drug Enforcement and Policy Center (which I help direct).  The page provides data and discussion concerning decades of state and local marijuana decriminalization experiences.  The subtitle of the page highlights a key theme of this new resource page: "Exploring the limited and disparate impact of fragmented reforms."  I highly recommend folks check out all the data and original visuals on this page.  Here is some of the page's introductory text:

The topic of drug decriminalization has gained considerable attention in the United States after Oregon voted in November 2020 to decriminalize all drugs in that state.  While we consider the possible impacts of broader drug decriminalization efforts, it is useful to look back at the five decades of marijuana decriminalization for lessons on effects and implementation.

In 1972, the US National Commission on Marihuana and Drug Abuse, known as the Shafer Commission, issued a report advocating a “social control policy seeking to discourage marihuana use” but asserting that criminal law was “too harsh a tool to apply to personal possession even in efforts to discourage use.”  In 1973, Oregon became the first state to implement the recommendations of the Shafer Commission by decriminalizing marijuana statewide. Ten states followed suit in the next five years: Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine and Ohio in 1975; Minnesota in 1976; Mississippi, New York and North Carolina in 1977; and Nebraska in 1978. In 1977, President Jimmy Carter even urged Congress to consider marijuana decriminalization.  The decriminalization movement stalled throughout the 80’s and 90’s with President Reagan’s focus on the war on drugs, but the 2000’s brought a sustained attention to the issue with a wave of decriminalization efforts, medical-use and adult-use cannabis legalizations across 35 states, and a rapidly changing public opinion....

By our count, at the end of 2010, roughly only one-third of Americans lived in a jurisdiction with full or partial decriminalization laws.  By April 2021, over 75% of people in the United States lived in a jurisdiction that has passed some form of decriminalization or legalization....

These numbers can mask the fact that not all decriminalization initiatives are created equal and that some forms of decriminalization do not ensure significant reduction in criminal justice encounters for marijuana users.  Despite the growth in the number of states that have fully legalized cannabis for all forms of adult use (17 states, the District of Colombia and three U.S. territories), residents of 14 states (29% of the U.S. population) continue to be barred from using cannabis lawfully even for medical purposes and many others are subjected to a patchwork of decriminalization statutes, which can differ from a city to city if full decriminalization is not adopted on statewide basis.

https://lawprofessors.typepad.com/marijuana_law/2021/05/five-decades-of-marijuana-decriminalization.html

Criminal justice developments and reforms, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink

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