Vol. LVIII No. 3

Introduction: Marijuana Laws and Federalism

In 1971, as a college freshman debater, one of the issues we debated was whether marijuana should be legalized. As I researched the topic, the arguments were overwhelmingly in favor of legalization, and it was difficult to put together a credible case for continued criminalization. Over 45 years have passed and the law has finally begun to change. An increasing number of states now have legalized or decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana.[1] As a result of initiatives in the November 2016 election, Colorado, Alaska, Oregon and Washington are now joined by California, Maine, Massachusetts and Nevada in legalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana.[2] Nearly half of the states allow medical use of marijuana.[3]

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