The Points Interview: Emily Dufton

Today’s Points Interview is with Dr. Emily Dufton, Points managing editor emeritus and author of the new book, Grass Roots: The Rise, Fall, and Rise of Marijuana in America – available today!

Describe your book in terms your bartender could understand.
Over the past five decades, grassroots activists have shifted America’s marijuana laws three times. In the 1970s, they passed decriminalization laws in a dozen states. Then, in response to rising rates of adolescent marijuana use, a movement of concerned parents recriminalized the drug in the 1980s, ultimately influencing how Nancy and Ronald Reagan approached drug use as well. But in the 1990s and 2000s, a new movement emerged, one that tied legalization to movements for social justice and civil rights. This new push for legalization seems unstoppable today — after all, 8 states and Washington, DC, have legalized recreational use, while 29 states and DC have medical marijuana laws — but I argue that the history of marijuana activism shows the cyclical nature of the drug’s social acceptance and surrounding policy. New grassroots movements continue to form, and, depending on a variety of factors, including who is in the White House and how marijuana is generally viewed, today’s push for legalization could birth a movement for criminalization tomorrow. Ultimately, I believe that the pendulum on public approval of marijuana won’t stop swinging any time soon.

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