Federalism and Medical Marijuana

Let the states serve as experimental laboratories.

By Patri Friedman

Since medical marijuana was legalized in California in 1996, use has been widespread. And once the Obama administration reduced the harassment, the number of dispensaries has grown rapidly. Not that pot was ever that hard to get out West, but it is now fair to say that the “medical” qualification is close to irrelevant.

So marijuana is now de facto legal in California, requiring only a couple hundred bucks and a short doctor’s visit to become a qualified purchaser. Perhaps as a result, a ballot initiative to fully legalize marijuana is polling at about even odds in the Golden State, and marijuana initiatives are in the pipeline elsewhere.

Now, any libertarian must raise a cup, pipe, vaporizer (or whatever) to finally seeing a little bit of progress in the demented War On People Who Use Some Kinds Of Drugs. Combined with the resurgence in research on medical uses of psychedelics—which often find positive benefits—it looks like this may be the beginning of a positive shift in America’s drug policy. Slow, partial, and late, but in the right direction.