Adam R. Scott


Social views evolve over time, but lasting societal change requires affirmative and strategic action. In modern American society, one social issue that requires strategic action is the legalization of marijuana through state legislation. Disagreements between state and federal law are common in a federal governmental structure. However, the individualized nature of state marijuana legislation and unpredictable federal prosecutorial discretion present novel legal issues that must be proactively addressed.
Since 1970, the Controlled Substances Act (“CSA”) has categorized marijuana as a “Schedule I” drug. Despite the unwavering criminalization of marijuana under federal law, thirty-three states and the District of Columbia now legally permit marijuana use in at least one form. Consequently, the use and possession of marijuana is no longer a binary issue of right or wrong. Instead, state marijuana legislation now raises new social and legal concerns impacting all federal and state governments.
mportantly, this Comment does not endorse a specific position on the use or possession of marijuana, nor does it offer a new solution that will “fix” the issue overnight. Instead, this Comment utilizes existing scholarship to illustrate how economic game theory principles can produce new insights and strategies regarding marijuana legalization in America. More specifically, this Comment uses the Prisoner’s Dilemma game to evaluate state marijuana legislation and to explain how increased interstate collaboration can mitigate the uncertainty created by unchecked federalism and prosecutorial discretion. Above all, readers should critically consider how game theory principles can help address other complex social issues in the future.



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