Green Rush: The Rise of Legal Marijuana in the American States A. Lee Hannah and Daniel J. Mallinson Under Contract with New York University Press Full book proposal [PDF]
Marijuana legalization is increasingly viewed as an inevitability in the United States, but that has not always been the case. In fact, changing federal marijuana policy has been so difficult that the states remain the locus of marijuana policy activity. We argue that you can’t understand current marijuana policy without centering that story on the states. The story of marijuana legalization from the perspective of the states has not yet been comprehensively told, but there would be no air of inevitability without hard work by elected officials, interest groups, and citizens in liberal and conservative states. In this book, we seek to explain how marijuana programs evolved from policies that provided individuals the legal cover for patients to grown their own plants or purchase a small supply from a cannabis club into a complex and expanding 50-billion-dollar industry.
But how did we get here and why has pro-marijuana policy spread so fast in a country that has poured billions of dollars into a multi-decade domestic and international war on drugs? The Green Rush leverages social science theory and methods to tell the story of how medical marijuana emerged in the 1990s, was legitimized by the states and even the federal government, spread to a majority of states, and set the stage for the current movement to legalize adult recreational use. The relatively rapid shift in pro-marijuana public sentiment and policy does not mean that political fights over the issue’s framing and policy details have ceased. We use the policy process model to explain why state marijuana policies emerged, how nimble issue framing has kept it spreading, and how the dynamics of federalism complicate its implementation in the states. While several books have been written about marijuana policy, they are largely broad histories and place much of the focus on federal drug policy from a narrative, journalistic, or legal framework. This book takes a comprehensive approach and focuses on each stage of the policy process, setting it apart from books focusing on one or two aspects of marijuana policy. This is the first book to delve into the state-to-state political dynamics that have brought marijuana policy to its current status. And now, state policies have increased pressure for federal action to relieve the implementation problems states face in legalizing a federally prohibited substance.
Green Rush first assesses how grassroots organizations, and an increasingly corporatized and professionalized industry, managed to get medical marijuana on the decision-making agendas of more than 30 states. By looking at the evolution of issue framing from helping AIDS and cancer patients in the late 1990s to helping children and veterans in the 2010s, we show how having a nimble issue frame facilitated the spread of a controversial policy like marijuana. We next examine the role of ballot initiatives, political polarization, and ideological similarity in the adoption of medical marijuana by 33 states. We expand on our theory of “defiant innovation” - a process whereby states, through initiatives or the legislature, pass laws that not only circumvent, but also reimagine federal law. We argue that state marijuana policies are defiant innovations, as the federal government has retained outright prohibition of marijuana usage and its stance that marijuana has no medicinal value. We discuss the implications of this for our understanding of the American federal system. We anticipate more defiant innovations in this era of uncooperative federalism, as states have become increasingly emboldened to resist policies of the Obama and Trump Administrations. The example of marijuana is instructive.