Analyzing Alternative Laws and Policies for Psychoactive Drugs

Analyzing Alternative Laws and Policies for Psychoactive Drugs

client RAND Corporation and California Assemblyman Rob Bonta instructors Robert J. MacCoun
deliverables Policy Report; Legal Memoranda; Oral Briefing number of students students (Interdisciplinary)
deadline Spring 2015 quarters offered Spring


This practicum version of the seminar, LAW 770, allows students to work as a team to prepare a written report and briefing for a policy client (to be determined). Two states have already legalized marijuana (WA and CO) and several more may do so in the next few years. These state initiatives pose unresolved legal questions resulting from the clash between state and federal law and international treaty obligations, as well as major undecided design issues about what form a legal market should take. We will examine the topic through many lenses, including moral philosophy, welfare economics, neuroscience and medicine, criminal justice and political analysis. We will draw on various analytic methods including epidemiology, econometrics, quasi-experimentation, simulation modeling, case studies and reasoning by analogy (tobacco, alcohol, prostitution, gambling). Among the policy levers we will consider are education and moral suasion, criminal justice, traditional risk regulation and street-level harm reduction and taxation.

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Clients & Deliverables



This practicum worked closely with the RAND Corporation and California Assemblyman Rob Bonta to investigate the legal and economic issues related to the legalization of marijuana in Washington and Colorado. Students analyzed unresolved legal questions resulting from the clash between state and federal laws and international treaty obligations, and examined design issues about the form of the legal market for psychoactive drugs.

Analyzing Alternative Laws and Policies for Psychoactive Drugs - Policy Lab

SLS News: Research by Stanford Law School Students Offers Roadmap for California on Legalizing Marijuana

Photos above: Nine SLS students; Andrew Baker, JD ’17; Elissa Baur, JD ’15; Jason Despain, JD ’17; Cari Jeffries, JD ’17; Hugh Kirkpatrick, JD ’17; Ann Linder, JD ’17; Michael Morillo, JD ’15; Paulina Slagter, JD ’16; and Mackenzie Tudor, JD ’17, spent this past Spring quarter analyzing options for regulating and taxing cannabis in California, as members of Professor Rob MacCoun’s marijuana policy lab. At the invitation of Dr. Beau Kilmer, Co-Director of RAND’s Drug Policy Research Center, the students travelled with Professor MacCoun to Santa Monica on May 26, 2015, to present their analysis to members of the RAND research staff (including teleconference audiences at RAND offices in other cities).

If California voters legalize marijuana for recreational use, the state would be wise to fully consider its options on how best to implement such a law, according to new research by Stanford law students.

One or more marijuana legalization initiatives will probably qualify for the 2016 California ballot. Over the past few years, Colorado, Washington, Alaska, Oregon and Washington, D.C., have all legalized recreational marijuana – and a fuller picture is beginning to emerge.

Analyzing those lessons learned, nine Stanford law students in a practicum held this spring by Stanford law Professor Robert MacCoun offer some suggestions to better inform the public debate surrounding marijuana legalization. Their 109-page report is titled “Legalizing Marijuana in California: A Review of Policy Considerations.”
The students came up with big-picture questions about how California might approach marijuana legalization:

  • What agency (or agencies) would be best equipped to regulate such an industry?
  • What are the implications of different ways of taxing marijuana, and how could they be adjusted over time?
  • What kinds of labor regulation issues would be raised in an industry that involves everything from agricultural work to retail service?
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