Humanosphere is on hiatus. Many thanks to our web design, development and hosting partner Culture Foundry for keeping the site active while we plan our next move. Culture Foundry builds, evolves and supports next-level websites and applications for clients you know, and you couldn’t ask for a better partner to help you thrive in digital. If you’re considering an ambitious website design or development project, we encourage you to make them your very first call.

Potcast: The global implications of Washington state legalizing marijuana

Seattle Hempfest 2013

Since Washington and Colorado voters approved the legal use of marijuana for recreational purposes, many are predicting other states will follow suit. The sober goal of this anticipated movement is to move away from the law enforcement approach to combating substance abuse through the public health strategy of ‘harm reduction’ – including reducing the harm of putting many people in prison for just using pot.

It’s still an experiment of sorts and what interests us here at Humanosphere is how this sea change in the U.S. is reverberating around the world. We talk with Alison Holcomb, a Seattle attorney with the local ACLU and the author of the successful ballot initiative that legalized weed in the Evergreen state, and Jake Ellison, author of’s widely read PotBlog.

We ask Holcomb to tell us more about her work in Uruguay assisting politicians and civil society in convincing the public to legalize marijuana as a means to undermine criminal cartels – and predict what is coming in other countries. Ellison talks about the likely challenges, and outright battles, to come – including international treaties that will need to be altered if the world at large seeks to move away from the arguably failed War on Drugs.

Before we get into the weeds of weed, Ansel and Tom discuss some of the news highlights in the Humanosphere this week. The conflict in South Sudan has remained high profile, in part because the U.S. government had invested so much in launching the world’s newest nation – but perhaps failed to deal with many of the underlying factors that led to its recent unraveling. Also noted was an article by Montreal-based journalist Judi Rever in which she makes the case for a less simplistic, cheerleading view of Rwanda and yet another spat in the Twitterverse centered on the chronic aid debate between economists Jeffrey Sachs and Bill Easterly. Enjoy!

Want to hear more podcasts? Subscribe and rate us on iTunes.


About Author

Tom Paulson

Tom Paulson is founder and lead journalist at Humanosphere. Prior to operating this online news site, he reported on science,  medicine, health policy, aid and development for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Contact him at tom[at] or follow him on Twitter @tompaulson.