Vermont Journal of Environmental Law

Volume 21 ()

All Is For The Best In The Best Of All Possible Worlds: The Unnecessary Environmental Costs Of Federal Cannabis Prohibition

Many strong criticisms have been leveled against federal cannabis prohibition, including its lack of scientific basis, its origins in racial animus, the racial disparities in its enforcement, and the negative impact it continues to have across society. Recent scholarship has added a new argument to the list: cannabis prohibition is terrible for the environment. Both legal and illegal production is fraught with negative environmental externalities. Illegal production is damaging because it happens with no oversight. Legal production is damaging because the normal regulatory mechanisms intended to protect the environment and public health are federal and thus precluded from regulating the cannabis industry. Prohibition, consequently, has left regulation to state-level agencies which are ill-equipped for the task. Federal legalization offers the opportunity to mitigate these externalities by removing the market for illegal cannabis and effectively regulating a power- and water-intensive agricultural industry. With no realistic prospect of federal legalization in sight, however, the environmental impact of cannabis production in the U.S. remains an unnecessary cost of a failed policy. Nevertheless, the trend towards legalizing cannabis—both for medicinal and recreational use—continues globally, and states can benefit from the lessons of other countries unencumbered by a dysfunctional federal hierarchy.

All Is For The Best In The Best Of All Possible Worlds: The Unnecessary Environmental Costs Of Federal Cannabis ProhibitionAll Is For The Best In The Best Of All Possible Worlds: The Unnecessary Environmental Costs Of Federal Cannabis Prohibition