There has been a recent push to legalise marijuana use, possession, and trade at state and federal levels in the United States. The Marijuana Justice Act 2017 proposes a reinvestment fund to remediate harms suffered by minority communities from the unequal enforcement of criminal drug offences. Are practices like the ‘reinvestment fund’ aligned with the theoretical foundations of restorative justice? Restorative justice has often been advanced by its proponents as a major development in criminological thinking and as an alternative to retribution, deterrence, and rehabilitation. On that basis, the emergence of restorative justice practices that work within the traditional criminal justice system challenges the existence of restorative justice as a separate penal measure. The paper defends the Unified Theory of Punishment, which adopts a unique view of restorative justice. It rejects theoretical approaches that advocate for a pure theory of restorative justice and/or penal abolition. Restorative justice should be integral to any criminal justice model, and retribution, deterrence, and rehabilitation can work under one framework. Proposals set by the Marijuana Justice Act 2017 are advantageously in line with the Unified Theory of Punishment’s understanding of crime and punishment, and evidense the ability of restorative justice to effectively address the repercussions of past serious criminal offences on members of the community. The application of restorative justice to legalisation processes is unique and advances knowledge of restorative thought within a legislative context.
restorative justice, marijuana, drug legalisation, drug offences, Unified Theory of Punishment.