Half-Baked: The Science and Politics of Legal Pot
Weed, herb, grass, bud, ganja, Mary Jane, hash oil, sinsemilla, budder, and shatter. Marijuana – whether viewed as a medicine or intoxicant – is fast becoming a part of everyday life, with the CDC reporting 7,000 new users every day and the American market projected to grow to $20 billion by 2020. Based on early campaign rhetoric, by that same year the U.S. could have a pro-marijuana president.
Despite its growing acceptance and popularity, marijuana remains illegal under federal law. Like heroin, LSD, and ecstasy, marijuana is a DEA Schedule I drug reflecting a Congressional determination that marijuana is both overly addictive and medically useless.
So what is the truth about pot? The current massive pro-marijuana momentum and increased use, obscures the fact that we still know almost nothing about marijuana’s treatment and palliative potential. Marijuana’s main psychoactive chemical is THC; but it also contains over 500 other chemicals with unknown physiological and psychological effects that vary based on dosage and consumption method. Medical marijuana may be legal in 32 states and supported by 84% of Americans, but federal constraints shield marijuana from basic scientific inquiry. This means that lawmakers and voters are enthusiastically supporting greater access to a drug without demanding critical scientific data. For policymaking purposes, this data should include marijuana’s short and long-term brain effects, possible lung and cardiac implications, chemical interactions with alcohol and other drugs, addiction risks, pregnancy and breast-feeding concerns, and the effects of secondhand smoke.
This Article treats marijuana as a significant contemporary science and law problem. It focuses on the fundamental question of regulating a substance that has not been adequately researched. The Article examines the extant scientific data, deficiencies, and inconsistencies and explains why legislators should not rely on copycat laws governing alcohol or prescription narcotics. It also explores how marijuana’s hybrid federal (illegality)/state (legality) raises compelling theoretical and practical Constitutional questions of preemption, the anti-commandeering rule, and congressional spending power. Marijuana legalization has, thus far, been treated as a niche academic concern. This approach is short-sighted and narrowminded. Marijuana regulation implicates the reach of national drug policy, the depth of state sovereignty, and the shared obligation to ensure the health and safety of our citizenry.
Joëlle Anne Moreno, Half-Baked: The Science and Politics of Legal Pot, 123 PENN. ST. L. REV. 401, 462 (2019).