I’ll be writing a series of blog posts that attempt to clear up some commonly used terms about marijuana reform that we take for granted. When discussing decriminalization, legalization, and regulation, it is easy to slip into using these terms interchangeably, but there are important distinctions. These words aren’t just commonly used; they are also material to explaining the legal issues of a reform scheme. In that light, I’ll put forward the following framework for talking about different reform schemes: decriminalization – where the state has no law about marijuana, state regulation – where the state has laws enabling third parties to participate in the marijuana market, and state participation – where the state itself is responsibly for growing and distributing marijuana. I will then explain why having defined terms is vital to enacting intelligent reform, and show how the framework interacts with other laws (like federal preemption). I am also in the final stages of authoring an article that explores marijuana reform’s potential impacts on police resources and prison space in California.
I’m Reed Wagner, a third year student at Santa Clara Law. In my time at Santa Clara Law School, I’ve mostly focused on criminal justice issues. I currently work at the Santa Cruz Public Defender’s office and I volunteer at the Northern California Innocence Project. I previously interned at the Stanislaus County Public Defender. My law schoolwork and upbringing in Berkeley, California, has deeply influenced my desire to see evidence-driven change enacted. Too frequently Californians shoot from the hip when legislating at the ballot box, something that can result in disastrous outcomes for equality and justice. While I am a proponent of marijuana legalization in California, the how of legalization is more important to me than the if. Without understanding policy issues, it is impossible to make the legislative choices needed to enact an intelligent reform. Stay tuned and subscribe for more.