Should marijuana be legal everywhere? The founder and executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, Ethan Nadelmann, and the founding director of the UK’s Centre for Drug Misuse Research, Neil McKeganey, are participating in an ongoing online debate over this question.
This debate is particularly timely, as the subject of cannabis prohibition has become a major issue in both media and public policy during the past year. With Colorado and Washington legalizing the plant’s recreational use, Uruguay edging towards having the first regulated and government-owned cannabis industry, and this week’s launch of a billion-dollar medical cannabis industry in Canada, it is essential for the pros and cons of policy reform to be more widely acknowledged.
McKeganey initiated this by arguing that legalization would increase the commonality and quantity of cannabis use, as well as highlighting scientific studies linking consumption of the herb to schizophrenia. Curiously, he refers to the movement for legalization as a “form of extremism”.
Meanwhile, Nadelmann’s opening statement draws upon the discriminatory origins of cannabis prohibition, the futility of contemporary eradication efforts, and the prevalence of its use. Importantly, Nadelmann discusses the issues that brought the issue of legalization to the forefront of state legislatures and the media; the financial burden of pursuing prohibition, the public support for reform, and – despite instances of abuse – the general safety and lack of addiction associated with cannabis use.
The debate, which is being moderated by Josie Delap at the Economist, allows readers to vote whether or not they agree with the motion. At the time of writing, votes are currently 91% in favor of Ethan Nadelmann’s pro-legalization position – although this is of course subject to change as the debate continues.
The debate will progress over the next ten days – with the contenders submitting rebuttal statements on Friday, October 4 and closing statements on Wednesday, October 9 – culminating in the announcement of the winner on the Friday, October 11.
Follow the live debate here: http://www.economist.com/debate/days/view/1018
UPDATE [10/4/13]: You can view round 2 of the debate here: http://www.economist.com/debate/days/view/1022
Avinash Tharoor is a freelance journalist.