Congressional Briefing - July 17, 2012

Marijuana Legalization: What We Know and What We Don't

Legalize Pot Rally Union Square 2012, photo courtesy of David Shankbone/

photo by David Shankbone/


Tuesday July 17, 2012


1:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m.


B-340 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, D.C.

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About the Program

This November, voters in multiple states will be asked to consider propositions concerning decriminalization and legalization of marijuana for commercial production and sale for general—not just medical—purposes. Medical marijuana and decriminalization are familiar concepts, albeit widely misunderstood by the public. Legalization of commercial sale and production, on the other hand, would constitute a revolution, one about which public opinion couldn't be more evenly divided. The latest Gallup poll reports that exactly half of Americans favor legalization, with indications of stronger support in states voting on it this year.

This briefing will examine:

  • why the evidence on medical marijuana is inconclusive
  • what makes legalization so dramatically different from mere decriminalization
  • the possible consequences of a state legalizing marijuana for non-medical purposes, both for that state and spill-over effects on other states
  • important differences between the particular legalization measures that are on the ballot this year in Colorado and Washington
  • options and limits for federal response to state-level legalization

Join RAND experts for a panel discussion on marijuana laws and policies at both the state and federal level.

Featured Speakers

Beau Kilmer
Co-Director, RAND Drug Policy Research Center; Senior Policy Researcher, RAND Corporation

Rosalie Pacula
Co-Director, RAND Drug Policy Research Center; Senior Economist, RAND Corporation

Jonathan Caulkins
Stever Professor of Operations Research and Public Policy at Carnegie Mellon University's Heinz College; RAND adjunct researcher; Former Co-Director, RAND Drug Policy Research Center

Caulkins and Kilmer are co-authors of the recently released Marijuana Legalization: What Everyone Needs To Know (Oxford University Press, 2012).

About RAND

The RAND Corporation is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. RAND focuses on the issues that matter most, such as health, education, national security, international affairs, law and business, the environment, and more. As a nonpartisan organization, RAND operates independent of political and commercial pressures. We serve the public interest by helping lawmakers reach informed decisions on the nation's pressing challenges. Visit us online at

Further Inquiries

For further information about this event, contact Laura Selway at or call (703) 413-1100, ext. 5423.