Marijuana Reform: Fears and Facts

In 1972, a National Commission on Marihuana and Drug Abuse, comprising establishment figures chosen mostly by President Richard Nixon himself, issued a report that declared that “neither the marihuana user nor the drug itself can be said to constitute a danger to public safety” and recommended that Congress and state legislatures decriminalize the use and casual distribution of marijuana and seek means other than prohibition to discourage use.

President Nixon ignored the report and Congress declined to consider its recommendations, but during the 40-plus years since its publication, at least 37 states have acted to refashion a crazy-quilt collection of prohibitions, nearly always in the direction favored by the commission. The specifics vary by state, but most reform legislation has followed one of three formulas: decriminalization of marijuana possession, legalization of marijuana for medical use, or legalization of marijuana for adult recreational use. In this issue brief, authors Katharine Neill and William Martin examine the facts and fears surrounding each of these options.

Download a fact sheet and the full report below.