Writing in National Affairs, Professor Mark Kleiman makes the public health case for legalizing cannabis at the national level in the United States:
It is precisely because cannabis isn’t harmless — because Cannabis Use Disorder and use by minors are real problems — that we need national legalization now, as a measure to protect public health. The futile, last-ditch resistance being mounted by the champions of prohibition will have substantial public-health costs if its result is a continued process of state-by-state quasi-legalization under inadequate controls and with regulatory mechanisms ripe for industry capture. National legalization, sooner rather than later, offers the best hope for creating a strategy to minimize the likely disadvantages of legal availability.
Legalization will inevitably make cannabis cheaper and more conveniently available, presenting a benefit to casual users and a risk for heavy users. No set of taxes and regulations can eliminate those risks, but if the will and the wit are there, those risks can be contained in ways they couldn’t be under continued prohibition or unrestricted commercialization. The window of opportunity for such policies will not remain open for many more years; the larger the state-legal cannabis markets become, the greater the political power of cannabis vendors. It’s time for Congress to bite the bullet and try to craft a cannabis policy that eliminates the illicit market without letting problem use explode.