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Newsletter: Is Legalizing Marijuana A Mistake?

Is Legalizing Marijuana a Mistake Open to Debate


Paul J. Larkin, Jr.
Senior Legal Research Fellow
at the Heritage Foundation


Teresa Haley
Senior Policy Advisor at the Foundation for Drug Policy Solution


Toi Hutchinson
CEO of the Marijuana Policy Project;
Former Member of the Illinois Senate


Cat Packer
Director of Drug Markets and Legal Regulation at the Drug Policy Alliance


Here is what we have in store this week:

We explore the highs and lows of marijuana legalization

A closer look at how harmful people see marijuana vs. alcohol for their health

 Your Sunday reading list



Some news concerning marijuana: Longlisted by the federal government as a so-called “Schedule I” controlled substance — on a par with heroin, in terms of the risks associated with it — weed is now under consideration for a reclassification: “Schedule III.” That’s where drugs with a recognized medical benefit and lower risk of dependence get grouped together. Anabolic steroids, for example, are Schedule III.

The recommendation to reclassify — reported to be made in a letter from an assistant secretary of health to the head of the Drug Enforcement Agency — suggests the Biden Administration aims to catch up with a trend already long underway across the US, where state governments have been reversing or revising the statutes that, for decades, put cannabis on the wrong side of the law. As of right now, 23 states have legalized recreational use of marijuana, and over a dozen more allow it for medical use.

At Open to Debate, we always like debating policy proposals, but we especially like it when we have the opportunity to debate policy outcomes. It was 2012 when Washington State and Oregon went first on recreational use, which gives us almost a dozen years of evidence to judge the impact of liberalization: on health, incarceration patterns, traffic accidents, etc.

We brought together four experts together in our classic Oxford-style format to take on this question: Is Legalizing Marijuana A Mistake?

Equally passionate, they sharply disagreed and brought some compelling reasons why. I know I learned a lot from hearing them. I think you will too.



What’s More Harmful to Use Regularly: Marijuana or Alcohol?


















Is Legalizing Marijuana A Mistake?



“Smoking cannabis… is going to harm the users as well as third parties. It can harm users if they’re minors because minors have a very labile brain and that brain is still developing and we don’t know that it’s not going to be adversely affected by cannabis. It can harm pregnant women, nursing women, and the children that they bear or bore because we don’t know yet what the effect is going to be.”

Paul J. Larkin, Jr.



“In the state of Illinois, when they legalized it just a few years ago, they said it was going to help the community, especially black and brown people… it has not helped. We still have a problem with unemployment. We still have a problem with homelessness. We still have a problem with mental health issues.”

Teresa Haley



“I don’t believe that every person who walks into a gambling casino is a gambling addict. I don’t believe every person who smokes cannabis is going to have a problem with it. I don’t think that everyone… who has a glass of alcohol is going to become addicted to it — and, in generally healthy people, that’s not the case. So, we’ve got to have a system around… reducing stigma [and] stereotypes.”

Toi Hutchinson



“We have to move beyond this conversation about yes or no on cannabis. Americans have already said yes… The question that we have to ask ourselves is, are we going to continue to be prohibitionist and stick our heads in the sand and say, We don’t have any solutions, we don’t have any levers, we don’t have any policy options? Are we going to be proactive and confront the complexities, the challenges, the actual human costs of what we’re talking about? That’s the option that we have with legalization.”

Cat Packer




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