The War on Drugs was a failure. It did not stop the drug trade. It just grew the prison system. The War on Cannabis continues through aggressive state and local enforcement and prohibition measures with no end in sight. And we have a massive illicit market. This is all very bad and we collectively need to figure out how to get people to comply with state law rather than penalizing everything.

The issue of enforcement or compliance is probably the biggest one most states face at the policy level. Today, we’ll look at the argument that a compliance focus is better than an enforcement focus. The thought process goes that three things will reduce the illicit market: (1) federal and statewide legalization, (2) incentives to access the legal market, and (3) putting compliance ahead of enforcement. Let’s unpack this below:

Prohibition and enforcement didn’t work

It goes without saying that enforcement and prohibition, when combined, led to decades of a failed war on cannabis, imprisonment, and misery – impacting in many cases people from the most marginalized parts of American society. Despite the Controlled Substance Act’s disincentives — up to lifetime prison sentences — people still grew, sold, and consumed

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