Dear Readers,

Welcome to the Drug Law and Policy blog. The blog is a product (and project) of a class I’m teaching this semester, the Drug Policy Practicum (what I’ll call the DPP–more on that in a minute.) In many ways, though, my writing this first post is a somewhat misleading start to the blog—this is going to be populated primarily by the writings of my fabulous students. Sometime in the coming weeks they’ll begin posting, first with a roadmap of the particular subject area they’ll be addressing, and later with substantive writing. As our about us section reads:

The Drug Law and Policy Blog provides in-depth legal analysis of drug policy and cannabis reform in the Golden State.  The blog is founded and maintained by students in Professor David Ball‘s Drug Policy Practicum at Silicon Valley’s most innovative law school, Santa Clara University.  Our aim is to provide a wealth of information for lawyers, legislators, business entities, advocates, law enforcement, and any individual invested in California’s political, social and economic leadership.

I’m really excited to be sharing their work and learning from them alongside you. And, by the way, that About Us section was written by my students.

My idea to teach this class was inspired by several experiences, which I’ll talk about in chronological order. In law school I had the good fortune to take classes with Joan Petersilia when she was visiting Stanford (she has since, to my delight, joined the faculty). Joan taught seminars on prisons that combined academics with policy—but policy that was meant to be disseminated to actual practitioners. In other words, we weren’t just writing for her and ourselves—we were writing for the world at large. Even before the DPP, I’ve always asked practitioners and policymakers what they’d like to see more research on. Students frequently write papers on those subjects and I’ve been pleased to disseminate the results.

The DPP has that baked in to its DNA. I’m a member of the Blue Ribbon Commission on Marijuana Law and Policy (BRC), and my students will be writing and researching about subjects of interest to my fellow commissioners. Obviously what they write won’t be the final word, but my goal is to have them contribute to the civic discussion both via dissemination to the BRC and to the world at large—which means you.

As far as the subject matter goes, my primary research and writing interests have been (and probably still remain) sentencing and corrections (another hat tip to Joan P) but this, of course, implicates issues about the drug war—not just when it comes to drug offenses but also the ways in which criminal procedure has been shaped by the drug war. But that’s a huge post. I read Doug Berman’s Sentencing Law and Policy blog every day, and when he started his Marijuana Law, Policy, & Reform blog, I subscribed to that (via RSS) too. I think marijuana policy is a fascinating example of scaling back the penal code, and it’s a rich opportunity to explore how to treat social problems via something besides the criminal justice system. I also think there’s great scope for thinking creatively about this, and, as someone who used to be a writer, actor, and improvisational comedian before law school, I’m always looking for that.

So my goals here are to showcase my fabulous students and to contribute something to the depth and legal analysis of marijuana regulation, with a particular focus on California. After a few more posts, I’ll fade into the background, but thanks for reading!

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