Leading Drug Policy Expert and Cannabis Decriminalization Advocate Mark Kleiman Dead at 68

One of the country’s most esteemed experts on drug policy and criminal justice reform has died at the age of 68. The New York Times reports that Mark A. R. Kleiman passed away on July 21 after a bout with lymphoma and a recent kidney transplant.

Kleiman had taught at both New York University and the University of California, Los Angeles. Early in his career, he served as director of program analysis for the Boston Office of Management and Budget. From 1982 to 1983 he headed the Justice Department’s Office of Policy and Management Analysis in the Criminal Division.

Kleiman was one of the first experts to call the war on drugs a failure. He spent many years championing criminal justice reform and the decriminalization of cannabis, though he was notably weary of outright legalization. He was brought in to assist Washington state with its legalization process and, at that time, made a salient prediction — “that loosening prohibitions on the sale and use of marijuana would initially raise the costs of law enforcement, because the police would have to deter illicit dealers who would otherwise undermine the fledgling legal market.”

“He was the most careful and original thinker of our time about criminal justice and drugs,” Michael O’Hare of the Goldman School of Public Policy at the University of California, Berkeley told The Times.

Among the papers he authored or co-authored were “Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control” (1989), “When Brute Force Fails” (2009), and “Marijuana Legalization: What Everyone Needs to Know” (2012).