University Libraries.

Topics in Criminal Justice: Legalizing Marihuana

The September 12, 2013 issue of the New York Times has a thought provoking editorial on its opinion page, “Legalizing Marihuana”. The editorial notes that while some states have legalized medical use of marihuana and others have legalized recreational use, the federal government still considers mere possession of marihuana to be a crime. Reconciling these different positions poses difficult problems for government agencies at both the state and federal level. The problems are not confined to law enforcement but include many public policy areas such as tax policy, consumer protection and health insurance. The University Libraries provides access to some excellent resources for researching the public policy aspects of the legalizing marihuana debate.

The CQ Researcher is a periodical which includes articles providing overviews of national public policy issues. It is available online through a link in the Minerva. Over the years it has published several articles on various public policy issues related to marihuana including a 2009 article, “Legalizing Marihuana” and a 2011 article, “Does Decriminalization Encourage Marijuana Use By Teens?”.
The Congressional Research Service produces reports on national public policy issues for the US Congress. We have access to their reports through the GalleryWatch CRS database. Relevant CRS reports on the topic include a 2013 report “State Marijuana Legalization Initiatives: Implications for Federal Law Enforcement” and another 2013 report “State Legalization of Recreational Marijuana: Selected Legal Issues”.

Committees of the US Congress hold hearings on policy issues. The hearings are referenced in the Proquest Congressional database. A 2004 hearing “Marijuana and Medicine: The Need for a Science-Based Approach”, and a 2001 hearing “Medical" Marijuana, Federal Drug Law and the Constitution's Supremacy Clause” are examples of hearings referenced. Most hearings for the last fifteen years can be accessed full text by performing a title search in Minerva.

Minerva is also an excellent sources for finding books and federal government documents on the topic. Here are a few examples:

Marijuana legalization : what everyone needs to know / Jonathan P. Caulkins, Angela Hawken, Beau Kilmer, and Mark A.R. Kleiman. New York : Oxford University Press, c2012. Dewey Library / HV 5822 M3 M2935 2012.

Marijuana legalization [electronic resource] : a bad idea / Office of National Drug Control Policy. [Washington, D.C.] : Office of National Drug Control Policy, Executive Office of the President, [2010]. Online / GovDoc: J 85 PREX 26.2:M 33/6.

Legalizing marijuana : drug policy reform and prohibition politics / Rudolph J. Gerber ; foreword by John Sperling. Westport, Conn. : Praeger, 2004. Dewey Library / HV 5822 M3 G47 2004.

Why marijuana should be legal / by Ed Rosenthal & Steve Kobby with S. Newhart. New York : Thunders Mouth Press, 2003. Dewey Library / HV 5822 M3 R57 2003.

Other databases such as PAIS, Westlaw, Criminal Justice Abstracts, and Sociological Abstracts, may be searched for academic journal articles. PAIS may also be useful for accessing reports from think tanks such as this 2010 report from the Rand Corporation “Insights on the Effects of Marijuana Legalization on Prices and Consumption”. Most think tanks make their research freely available online so a simple title search using Google will access the document.

Finally advocacy groups may be an important source of information as long as the researcher takes into account each groups general bias on the topic. Here are some advocacy groups for this topic:

Pro-Legalizaton Groups:
Drug Policy Alliance
Marijuana Policy Project

Anti-Legalization Groups:
Project SAM
Save Our Society from Drugs (S.O.S.)

One last note. Marijuana has an alternative spelling “marihuana”. Researchers should take into account the various spellings of terms as they are constructing their search strategies.

If you want more information on research strategies on this topic or other criminal justice and public policy topics, please contact Richard Irving, our criminal justice and public administration subject specialist. Email him at or call him at 442-3698.

Blog by Richard Irving
Research assistance provided by Cary Gouldin

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