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Authors: Bronheim, Rachel Samantha
Advisors: Wailoo, Keith
Department: Woodrow Wilson School
Class Year: 2015
Abstract: On November 6th, 2012, Colorado and Washington became the first states in the country to successfully pass legislation that fully legalized the possession and sale of recreational marijuana. This represented the culmination of a decades long fight by marijuana reform advocates, and the end of a century-long narrative of marijuana prohibition and criminalization. This thesis explores the implementation of marijuana legalization in Colorado and Washington, contextualizing it within in the history of marijuana in the United States. In the months before Election Day, certain values were invoked to argue for or against legalization legislation. These value debates typically portrayed marijuana legalization as either wholly good or bad. This thesis shows that the true values debate about marijuana legalization is more nuanced—it is about whether and how the state can achieve a balance of the competing values of individual autonomy and government responsibility to reduce harm. As such, the research question this thesis answers is the following: Is it possible, not just in the abstract, but in the pragmatics of governance and implementation of policy to properly balance the conflicting goals of individual autonomy with the goal of government responsibility to avoid harm? Using the case studies of Colorado and Washington, this thesis illustrates how states balance these two agendas; testing the hypothesis that implementation is the stage at which values debates truly come to the fore. This thesis goes on to argue for the importance of policy implementation to the balancing of these values, and argues that early implementation decisions are integral to policy success or failure. This thesis is a study of marijuana legalization implementation in three parts, all of which contribute to a greater understanding of the way the values of autonomy and government responsibility to mitigate harm are balanced. This thesis uses the values-focused analytical framework of harm reduction to examine legalization statutes, legalization implementation rules and regulations, guidelines by state agencies, such as the Departments of Transportation and Public Health and Environment that help employees adjust to statewide legalization, and materials from public relations campaigns by these agencies to educate consumers about marijuana legalization to create a detailed picture of the implementation of process of marijuana legalization. The first chapter addresses the values related to marijuana, and argues that they implicitly shape the implementation of marijuana legalization. The second chapter focuses on the ways in which harm reduction is implicitly integrated into marijuana legalization implementation in Colorado, and presents the junctures at which I have detected its manifestation. The final section examines pre-existing medical marijuana structures in Colorado and Washington, arguing that they demonstrate a novel way of interpreting the theories of path dependency and imprinting, and showing how they influence the nature of marijuana legalization implementation. This thesis closes by offering some concluding thoughts on the way implementation is shaped by values, harm reduction, and pre-existing structures, and the implications for states implementing marijuana legalization, and for drug policy more broadly. This study finds that implementing states must consider the state of existing medical marijuana markets and structures when implementing recreational legalization. Finally, these frameworks of harm reduction and the building upon existing pathways of regulatory bureaucracies can be extrapolated to inform any recreational drug policy, including narcotics, alcohol and tobacco, in that the determinants for regulation should be driven by the relative relationship between individual autonomy and harm reduction.
Extent: 129 pages
Type of Material: Princeton University Senior Theses
Language: en_US
Appears in Collections:Woodrow Wilson School, 1929-2017

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