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Center for Policy Research


Marijuana Legalization: Beyond Yes or No

Keith Humphreys

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.


This report is sponsered by The Herbert Lourie Memorial Lecture series, which is jointly sponsored by the 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 and Population Health.

The Center for Policy Research at the Maxwell School of Syracuse University supports policy-relevant research and disseminates knowledge that enables leaders to make informed policy decisions and provide effective solutions to critical challenges in our local region, state, country and across the world.

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