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Center for Policy Research

Policy Brief

Marijuana Legalization: Beyond Yes or No

Keith Humphreys

C.P.R. Policy Brief No. 55

October 2019


“Marijuana Legalization: Beyond Yes or No,” is unquestionably a hot political topic. However, this is not a political paper and the author does not take a political position. What he does instead is give you a policy research perspective and discuss the different levers we could pull, and what their impact might be. The most important lesson of cannabis policy research is that we have many options rather than facing a blanket yes or no decision. We have choices and needn’t confine ourselves to picking between a war on marijuana on the one hand, and a clone of the tobacco industry on the other. There are plenty of other cannabis policy options, whether it is legal or illegal, and those options should be left to you as voters.

This paper goes over some basic terms and concepts, then discusses what’s going on in the world around cannabis with a focus on the United States. The author then offers some policy options to consider if New York chooses to legalize recreational cannabis.


Sponsored by the The Herbert Lourie Memorial Lecture series, which is jointly sponsored by Syracuse University's Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs and the Central New York Community Foundation, Inc., and is administered by the Center for Policy Research and The Lerner Center for Public Health Promotion.

The Center for Policy Research Policy Brief series is a collection of essays on current public policy issues in aging; urban and regional studies; education finance and accountability; public finance; social welfare, poverty, and income security; and related research done by or on behalf of the Center for Policy Research at the Maxwell School of Syracuse University.

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