Wilson Center Faculty Editorial: Legalizing Marijuana has Pros and Cons

The Greensboro News & Record ran an editorial this weekend from Dr. Marvin Swartz and Dr. Allison Robertson, Professor and Assistant Professor, respectively, of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Duke University.

From the article:

Recent elections brought resurgent national interest in the legalization of marijuana. This was partly fueled by the need for new tax revenue given the looming effects of COVID-19 on state budgets.

Legalization also serves racial justice concerns as drug arrests disproportionately affect minorities. Colorado and Washington were the first two states that legalized marijuana for recreational use in 2012. Since then, the District of Columbia and 11 other states have also fully legalized marijuana, including for recreational use. New Jersey, Arizona, Montana and South Dakota just voted on ballot initiatives to legalize recreational marijuana. South Dakota also voted in favor of a medical-cannabis program, as did Mississippi.

Policymakers and — in the case of ballot initiatives, voters — assessed the risks and benefits of legalizing both medical and recreational use of marijuana. They concluded that the benefits of decriminalization and legalization outweighed potential public health concerns. Decriminalization can go a long way in reducing incarceration and disproportionate incarceration of minority individuals.

However, decriminalization and legalization yield different results — good criminal justice policy may well not equate to good public health policy. Observers in our state wonder if legalization might come to North Carolina. That seems unlikely with the conservative tilt of the General Assembly and a ballot initiative is equally unlikely since legislators would have to approve putting it on the ballot in North Carolina.

Read the full piece here.