Adam Chernew


The purpose of this paper is to examine the future of the marijuana legalization movement and the prospects of recreational marijuana legalization at the national level. While the marijuana movement has made tremendous strides at the state level over a very short period of time, there remains a debate over whether or not this progress will translate into success federally. First, this paper reviews the literature from the field, the majority of which focuses on whether marijuana ought to be legalized for recreational use in the first place. Despite extensive research, the evidence from the field is far from definitive. It remains unclear whether recreational legalization of marijuana raises teenage usage, whether the harmful side effects of marijuana are offset by its medical benefits, and whether the social costs of marijuana prohibition outweigh the social costs associated with its increased use. This paper also details political obstacles obstructing federal legalization of marijuana. Even if state-based evidence for recreational legalization was overwhelmingly favorable, there would still be significant obstacles to federal legalization of marijuana. These obstacles include a backward drug classification system, an anti-marijuana Attorney General, and key constituencies that oppose marijuana legalization. This paper concludes that despite the liberalization of marijuana policies at the state level, the future of federal legalization is still hazy at best.



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