Baker Institute, South Texas College of Law collaborate on marijuana policy

As more states are considering the legalization of marijuana, law students at South Texas College of Law (STCL) will have the unique opportunity to draft model drug policy legislation as part of a new interinstitutional collaboration between STCL and Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy.

NATHAN JONES

Beginning this fall, second- and third-year STCL students can take an upper-level elective course focused on researching and drafting legislation for states to use after legalizing the use of marijuana. Drawing in part on the Baker Institute Drug Policy Forum’s expertise, the students will draft statutes and commentary relating to critical regulatory issues such as taxation, liability, age requirements and licensing rules for dispensaries and sellers.

“Up until now, the policy discussion and academic treatment of drug policy issues have been mostly focused on current crisis with drug policy and the need for a change,” said Dru Stevenson, a law professor and the Helen and Harry Hutchins Research Professor at STCL, who will be teaching the course. “There hasn’t been enough attention given to how the legal system will have to adapt after marijuana is decriminalized. We want to contribute to this discussion by moving the debate forward and getting ahead of the curve.”

Baker Institute Drug Policy Program members William Martin, the Harry and Hazel Chavanne Senior Fellow in Religion and Public Policy, and Nathan Jones, the Alfred C. Glassell III Postdoctoral Fellow in Drug Policy, will lead the collaboration with Stevenson.

BILL MARTIN

“As policy experts and a growing number of states, counties and municipalities consider ideas other than sweeping prohibition and harsh punishment of both medical and recreational use of marijuana, they face the complicated challenge of translating those ideas into action — into specific bills that can be enacted in legislatures and respected as legitimate by citizens,” Martin said. “This collaboration between the Baker Institute and STCL offers an exciting opportunity to accept that challenge and cross the bridge to a more rational, humane and fiscally responsible drug policy.”

The collaboration was suggested by Rehman Bhalesha, a STCL student with a special interest in drug policy.

STCL and the Baker Institute plan to hold panel discussions and publish journal articles to share widely the course’s findings, Stevenson said.

To view a video interview with Jones and Stevenson discussing the collaboration, visit http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9xfj9RSHB7I.

About Amy Hodges

Amy is a senior media relations specialist in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.