Mark Kleiman, despite his support for prohibition in many forms, has, for quite some time, advocated limited legalization of marijuana, on a “grow-your-own” plan. Here’s one mention of it from earlier this year:
So I continue to favor a “grow your own” policy, under which it would be legal to grow, possess, and use cannabis and to give it away, but illegal to sell it. Of course there would be sales, and law enforcement agencies would properly mostly ignore those sales. But there wouldn’t be billboards.
That beautifully-crafted policy has only two major defects that I’m aware of: it wouldn’t create tax revenue, and no one but me* supports it.
It wasn’t the only defect (at least in my opinion). I have always felt that a grow-your-own-only plan was problematic in that only a very small portion of the population would grow their own (either from the position of ability or desire).
Additionally, something that isn’t discussed enough is that marijuana is (and should be) a connoisseur drug, much like certain kinds of alcohol. For example, I have The Balvenie 10-Year single malt scotch for those peaceful evenings when I want honey-smooth relaxation, and I have Lagavulin 16-Year for those bold nights when drinking a campfire stirs my blood.
Cannabis has the potential for working in the same way. Some strains are perfect for watching a funny movie, while others are great for a hike in the woods, or for an evening talking with friends. This cannabis connoisseur approach should be encouraged as it tends toward more responsible use than the marijuana equivalent of binge drinking that is the natural tendency under prohibition.
Just as it is impractical for me to bottle my own Balvenie and Lagavulin, it is impractical for the grow-your own plan to allow for the cannabis connoisseur.
So there clearly needs to be some public sale method, as I indicated in my response to Mark in the comments of this post, when he challenged me to actually propose a legalized option.
Knowing his concerns about commercialization (concerns that bother me much less than him, but I am willing to also look at options that would avoid commercialization), I proposed a legal variation of the Amsterdam model:
Marijuana: Legal to grow non-commercially (no sales, but you can give it away). Also sold to the public through “coffee shops,” which are licensed to sell and to contract with growers. Call it the Amsterdam/Starbucks model, where coffee shops can advertise, but brand names cannot. (That stops the Philip Morris model from emerging.) Something more than a grow-your-own is necessary to stop significant black market, since most people will not grow their own. Any level of taxation works as long as they keep pot cheaper than it is now. Regulation should be in the form of insuring that there are no additives and that the production meets basic safety (ie, no mold, etc.)
I don’t know if Mark read my response to his challenge or not, but he has now shifted his marijuana legalization position in Second thoughts on “grow your own” pot
This idea [the original grow-your-own] runs into two reasonable objections: It’s a bad idea to have one more law that is routinely broken and which can be enforced in an arbitrary way, and it would be an inconvenience to cannabis-smokers not to be have access to professionally-grown material. For example, an open market might lead to labeling various products according to the amounts and ratios of the several different psychoactive chemicals in cannabis. A less potent objection is that if there are no sales there can be no revenue to the government.
Good points. His solution?
That then suggests yet another option: in addition to allowing production for one’s own use or for gift, perhaps the law could allow the formation of consumer-owned co-operatives, limited in size, barred from advertising and from selling other than by mail-order. Each co-op would be required to produce its own material rather than buying it from manufacturers or wholesalers. That system would provide much though not all of the convenience, choice, and potential tax revenue of the alcohol model, without creating an another addiction-promotion industry.
This is definitely a step in the right direction. Certainly far superior to the grow-your-own-only model (and infinitely better than prohibition), although personally I believe that it’s overly cautious.
I’m not sure I understand why mail order only, and I’d be interested in knowing the reasoning. I don’t know what dangers are introduced by being able to see and smell your item before purchasing it.
And I’m uncertain about the restriction requiring the coop to sell only what they grow. I’m assuming that there could be some distribution of seeds etc. to allow popular strains to be available in different locations, and today’s indoor farming techniques probably make it possible for a coop to provide quite a variety. Additionally, mail order would make it possible for additional cannabis connoisseur approaches (ie, one particular coop specializes in a particularly unique strain.)
It’s certainly interesting. I like my coffee shop plan better, but if Mark’s idea was the one actually looking possible to happen, I’d be happy to get behind it.
Wouldn’t it be great if we had some kind of mechanism in our country to try out different ideas? You know, if there were some sub-categories within the country (maybe like 50 different regional areas) with their own sub governments and laws, where you could try something in one of them, and try something else in another one and see which one works better? That sure would be useful.
Several readers have suggested that we should put together a collection of legalization options, so I have started the process at LegalizationFacts.com/options. Over the next couple of weeks I plan to collect the suggestions I’ve given, along with those from other sources (and there are quite a few) and putting them all up there along with pros and cons of each one.
I could use your help. Send me links or references to other proposals for legalization schemes. Even if you think it’s unworkable (in which case, let me know why).