Marijuana Legalization: What Everyone Needs to Know

By Jonathan P. Caulkins; Angela Hawken et al. | Go to book overview

14
BETWEEN MARIJUANA
PROHIBITION AND
COMMERCIAL LEGALIZATION:
IS THERE ANY MIDDLE
GROUND?

Is there a middle ground between legalization and prohibition?

One can think about the choice between prohibition and legalization from two different perspectives: as a yes-or-no decision, or as a spectrum including many intermediate points between its extremes. Neither metaphor alone is “right”; both have value.

The spectrum perspective recognizes, for example, that cocaine is allowed for medical use, while heroin is not; in that sense cocaine is less strictly prohibited than heroin. Likewise, age restrictions and other special rules apply to alcohol but not to caffeine, so alcohol is less fully legalized than caffeine.

Yet it is misleading to think of the spectrum as a continuum that allows small adjustments up or down everywhere along it without crossing any threshold. There are important dividing lines between legalization and prohibition with respect to both use and production. For use, a key question is: can most people legally obtain and use the substance just for fun, without a prescription or medical justification? By that definition alcohol

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