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Books About Cannabis Legalization

As stigma fades, the spotlight on marijuana shines ever brighter. These essential books about cannabis legalization will tell you everything you need to know about the debate today.


Progress towards legalization may seem steady and certain, but the history of pot in the United States indicates a much more complicated issue. To best understand the debate, and join the argument, check out these books about cannabis legalization.

Smoke Signals: A Social History of Marijuana - Medical, Recreational, and Scientific by Martin A. Lee

High in both passion and detail, Smoke Signals is perhaps the most popular recent publication on marijuana. Though thoroughly researched and highly detailed, this book does not lack in humor and intensity either. It covers everything you may need to know about marijuana, from its origins to practical uses to its role in society in a 21st century United States. Lee's book is considered in many circles to be the gold standard with regards to books about cannabis legalization.

Legalizing Marijuana: Drug Policy Reform and Prohibition Politics by Rudolph J. Gerber

Weed is often likened to alcohol in discussions of harm, benefit, and legality. Rudolph J. Gerber explores this analogy in Legalizing Marijuana, harkening the age of illegality to the age of prohibition in the '20s. He discusses public policy, changes in social attitudes, and the various factors that lead to prohibitionist laws about substances such as alcohol and marijuana. He then makes a case for legalization, through well-researched facts about its medical uses and benefits. 

Marijuana Legalization: What Everyone Needs to Know by J.P. Caulkins, Beau Kilmer, and Mark A.R. Kleiman, and Angela Hawken

Including Angela Hawken, credited on the first edition of this book, these four writers are some of the leading minds in public policy. As such, this book is perhaps one of the most well-trusted, well-sourced, and fairly-distributed portrayals of marijuana in the United States and its road to legalization.

Regardless of which side of the debate you are on, this book contains important information, and will give you new facts and new arguments to consider. 

Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know by Kleiman, Caulkins, and Hawken

Another co-authored book by Hawken, Kilmer, and Kleiman, this book gets beyond the marijuana debate and into the state of drug policy in the United States on a larger scale. 

If you want a well-rounded, clear view of drug policy in United States, and where marijuana fits into it, you may want to do more than read books about cannabis legalization alone. This book is a font of information relevant to the debate, and will provide a much deeper understanding of the political setting in which the debate occurs.

Marijuana Nation: One Man's Chronicle of America Getting High: From Vietnam to Legalization by Roger Roffman

Roger Roffman uses his own experiences to craft an engaging and informative tale of the history and state of marijuana in the United States. He grew from a young activist to a University researcher and professor, doing particular research regarding the behavior or adults with marijuana dependency.

With an entertaining first-person account and a well-rounded understanding of drug policy in America, Marijuana Nation is a must-read for everyone.

Legalizing Marijuana: Promises and Pitfalls by Margaret J. Goldstein

Catered largely to high school students, Goldstein's book provides a clear, concise history of marijuana in the United States from cultivation to public policy and attitude today. She also elucidates a number of obstacles to legalization, in order to explain how the movement has slowly progressed over the last few decades.

Because it was written largely for school-aged students, this volume is one of the best books about cannabis legalization for younger readers, as well as those who are new to the debate.

Weed the People: The Future of Legal Marijuana in America by Bruce Barcott

Bruce Barcott, a professional journalist, went from being staunchly anti-legalization to a dedicated supporter of the movement over the course of his life and career. In Weed the People, he uses both parts of his life to elucidate the pros and cons of marijuana legalization and use.

His based-on-experience, personal approach makes this book both informative and approachable. The first-person narrative provides entertainment and background on the author, but does not detract from the important information put forth by a serious journalist. A great read for all levels.

After Legalization: Understanding the Future of Marijuana Policy by Jon Walker

While many books about cannabis legalization focus on arguments for or against it, Walker instead focuses on how best to implement it moving forward. The end of the 'prohibition' era for marijuana may be looming, but we will first need guidance and agreement on its role in society. He discusses regulations and taxes, as well as practical concerns to be addressed. 

Lauded as an insightful benefit to the argument for legalization, this book gives us a way forward through changing drug policy and removing marijuana from its misguided place in the war on drugs.

Grass Roots: The Rise and Fall and Rise of Marijuana in America by Emily Dufton

In Grass Roots, Dufton focuses on how changes in public attitude have shaped changes in drug policy over the years. This is a great read for a refreshing take on the evolution of marijuana legalization, how we got to where we are now, and how we may move forward.

Especially interesting is Dufton's analysis of the history of drug policy in comparison to the state of it today: while it may seem that progress towards legalization has been steady and forward, if slow, it in fact is only now coming back from a period of backwards movement.

Legalizing Marijuana (Essential Viewpoints) by Kayla Morgan

For a quick crash course in public policy and medical and economic benefits of marijuana, Morgan's book is perfect. As the title indicates, she outlines the key aspects of the debate today, including regulations and taxes, medical uses, and marijuana's place in current drug policy. This is another of the books about cannabis legalization that offers insight into the future, and the relationship between the government, the consumer, and cannabis.

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