Why Mark Kleiman is a crock

Let’s start with Mark Kleiman’s new OpEd in the Los Angeles Times:

California can’t legalize marijuana

There’s one problem with legalizing, taxing and regulating cannabis at the state level: It can’t be done. The federal Controlled Substances Act makes it a felony to grow or sell cannabis. California can repeal its own marijuana laws, leaving enforcement to the feds. But it can’t legalize a federal felony.

Well, duh. Thanks for letting us know that marijuana would still be illegal at the federal level. There’s a newsbreak.

When California passed medical marijuana, it was illegal at the federal level as well. That didn’t stop them from actually, relatively successfully (despite the challenges of federal government intrusion), implementing a licensed medical marijuana system.

But Mark helpfully explains why that could work, while recreational marijuana wouldn’t…

True, Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr. has announced that the Justice Department will not prosecute people who are selling medical marijuana in compliance with California’s law. But that’s an entirely different matter. The attorney general could cite good legal and constitutional reasons for that policy, because the regulation of medical practice is a state and not a federal responsibility. And if the medical justification for most of the pot sold through dispensaries is sketchy at best? Well, that too is a state problem.

This is just a bizarre statement. Maybe the Attorney General “could cite good legal and constitutional reasons for that policy,” but he didn’t — he merely said that prosecuting medical marijuana in compliance with state law was not a particularly good use of limited resources. How would that be different from prosecuting millions of recreational users?

And “because the regulation of medical practice is a state and not a federal responsibility”? More bizarreness. Yes, under today’s fatally strained Supreme Court interpretation of the Commerce Clause, medical “practice” is mostly a state function, but the drugs used in medical practice (including marijuana) are considered to be under federal control (re-read Raich). The implication that somehow medical drugs are constitutionally the domain of the states (don’t I wish), but recreational drugs are not is an even more unusual Constitutional notion (I’m imagining a bizarro-land Kleiman version of the 10th Amendment reading “The powers not delegated to the States, or to the people, are reserved to the United States”).

Note: it is interesting that I don’t recall Mark mentioning this point about the regulation of medical practice being the domain of the states when it came to discussions about federal health care.

But Mark goes on to give a reason why the federal government could not sit by with legalization of recreational marijuana in California — treaties.

For one thing, allowing Californians to openly grow cannabis for non-medical purposes would be a clear violation of international law; that’s why the Netherlands, which tolerates retail cannabis sales through “coffee shops,” still bans marijuana production.

So, apparently, the United States government would be willing to undertake a massive military action against the entire population of its largest state, in order to avoid looking bad to other countries?

[Side Query: Just what has been the U.S. track record at obeying all international treaties and laws?]

Now if the Netherlands broke the treaty, they’d be in for some international problems (mostly from the U.S. — the country most heavily pushing the drug treaties). What would happen if the U.S. broke the treaty? Would the United Nations expel us? Make us pay our dues? Issue a resolution? Decertify us in some kind of international report of countries that play ball regarding drug policy, and give us less foreign aid?

The point is that the federal government has to be pushed into doing the right thing, and merely writing your Congresscritter ain’t going to do it. It takes pressure from a lot of directions, and California passing legalization is one of those directions that could have a lot of push.

The final reason that Kleiman says the feds can’t allow California legalization (and apparently therefore will commit its entire national resources to busting people for possession of cannabis) is… the black market.

… the legal California product would still be a screaming bargain by national standards, at less than one-third of current black-market prices.

As a result, pot dealers nationwide — and from Canada, for that matter — would flock to California to stock up. There’s no way on earth the federal government is going to tolerate that.

So… the federal government, unhappy that marijuana profits have stopped going to murderous Mexican drug cartels, and instead are going to California citizens, will start cracking down on marijuana trafficking?

Of course, the “statistics” about what the price of cannabis would be in legalized California are from his friends with the infamous RAND report.

He then finishes his OpEd with the statement that he’d support marijuana legalization… as long as it’s done his way.

It’s an odd OpEd, but nothing really that we aren’t used to from Mark Kleiman.

He’s convinced that prohibition (as it has been practiced in every way to date) is a failure, and he thinks marijuana should be “legal” in some way, but there’s no way he’ll ever support “legalization,” partly because he ironically wants to be recognized and accepted as a “Villager,” and partly because of his ingrained prejudices.

Kleiman has worked hard to establish himself as the go-to academic on drug policy, along with the almost incestuous group of think-tank folks whose name appears on every drug policy paper that comes along (and of course, on his list of favorite books on drug policy). Well, if you want to be in the inner circle, it just won’t do to promote legalization publicly. If you want to be invited to chat with the drug czar, you can criticize prohibition, but you can’t suggest that there should be an alternative.

This puts Kleiman in the rather ridiculous position of opposing every aspect of prohibition, yet still looking around for some way to make it work better (like doing it “less”). Or, instead of really dealing with the whole problem, picking one tiny aspect and focusing totally on it (like his promotion of the HOPE program — a worthwhile program that should be promoted, but which has as much likelihood of solving prohibition’s destruction as increasing the budget for the USO would have in instituting world peace).

Regarding his prejudices… the biggest one is against the people who are for legalization.

Let’s take a look at his post promoting the OpEd:

Why Prop. 19 is a crock

…I may vote for the proposition anyway, just as a protest against the current laws. Too bad the California ballot initiatives don’t permit you to vote for “a pox on both your houses.”

Ignore the strange juxtaposition that it’s a crock and then saying he may vote for it anyway… Let’s look at his desire to vote for “a pox on both your houses.” This is a recurrent theme. He doesn’t support the results of the prohibitionists, but he doesn’t like the legalizers. It’s not that he wants to vote against legalization; he wants to vote against the legalizers.

And yes, he’s done this before. In a piece where he clearly dismantled the prohibitionists’ arguments against medical marijuana, he concludes:

If you guessed from the above that neither side of the drug-policy debate actually gives a rat’s ass about sick people, you’re a remarkably good guesser.

No evidence that our side didn’t give a rat’s ass about sick people; he just wanted to slam both sides.

It’s really got to bug him every time that NORML, LEAP, MPP, SSDP and others get press (and it’s happening more and more), because he and his friends have worked so hard to be the voice of proper drug policy.

But quite frankly, by being intellectually dishonest in order to be “politically” acceptable and ignoring the facts of drug policy in order to push personal pet views, he is ironically proving himself to be irrelevant to the real and dynamic conversation that’s going on now regarding drug policy.

I am saddened that we lack a true drug policy think tank here in the United States anywhere near the caliber of Transform Drug Policy Foundation in England, where real research and concrete proposals are being put forward, instead of our academics’ pathetically intellectually empty efforts to “fix” prohibition and sabotage reform.

And that’s the real reason I care enough about what Mark Kleiman says to write such a long post.


Oh, by the way, guess who else suddenly discovered the black market? The drug czar.

Mr. KERLIKOWSKE: Well, we know that certainly California is poised to and will be voting on legalizing small amounts of marijuana. And that vote is scheduled for November of this year.

There are a number of studies and a number of pieces of information that really throw that into the light of saying that, look, California is not going to solve its budget problems, that they have more increase or availability if drugs were, or marijuana, was to become legalized. That in fact you would see more use. That you would also see a black market that would come into play. Because why wouldn’t in heaven’s name would somebody want to spend money on tax money for marijuana when they could either use the underground market or they could in fact grow their own.

Wow. A “black market” would come into play. Who knew? Did any of you imagine that conditions could ever occur where there would be a black market in marijuana? Good thing we’ve got criminalization, where you don’t have black markets.

And that whole business about who would want to buy marijuana legally if they could get it on the black market? That must be why everyone grows their own tobacco and brews their own beer, and why nobody ever buys tomatoes in the stores, because they can grow their own without taxes.

A reminder to the drug czar…

Despite the fact that a lot of places have ridiculously stupid high taxes on cigarette packs (like New York City’s $4.25 per pack tax), somehow enough people actually buy them to generate billions in tax revenue.

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55 Responses to Why Mark Kleiman is a crock

  1. Pingback: Only the Ignorant Appose Legalizing Marijuana | passthatgrass.com

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  3. Mark Kleiman says:

    Pete, you’re a liar. But you already know that. I don’t much mind your lying about drug policy, but please stop lying about my statements and opinions.

    Of course the Feds wouldn’t bother arresting users. They’d go after growers and retailers. Therefore, growing and retailing would remain underground, which means no revenue for California, contrary to the dishonest premise under which Prop. 19 is being sold. (Unsuccessfully, it appears.)

    The key fact is the RAND estimate of $40/oz. (plus tax) for legal sinse at retail. At that price, every pot dealer in America would ditch his supplier and drive a U-Haul to California. What I said is that the Feds can’t, and won’t, put up with that.

    (It’s off topic, of course, but if you really can’t tell the difference between regulating health care finance and telling doctors how to treat their patients you should probably lay off opining about health care finance reform.)

  4. John says:

    Mark, at that price, every pot smoker would ditch his dealer and drive a U-Haul to California.

  5. Paul says:

    I expect you’ll be getting some love from Kleiman on your post soon. 🙂 I agree with you that he wants legalization only done his way, and everyone else are idiots. He wants to be a part of the game and wants his opinion to count more than he really wants to solve the problem.

    Personally, I don’t really care much anymore how we arrive at legalization, just so long as the government leaves people alone. I don’t care whether or not the feds can tolerate California repealing a stupid state law because they can’t enforce their (in truth, unconstitutional) writ in California as a practical matter.

    I’m also not impressed with arguments about the sanctity of the law. Ever since the law fell down the rabbit hole and came to mean whatever judges and authority want it to mean, I’ve had no respect for the law–only fear. There’s a quote from Alice in Wonderland that sums up my view of the law quite nicely:

    “When I Use a Word, It Means Just What I Choose It to mean, Neither More nor Less.”

    All this other blather, about treaties or whether it is for medical purposes, or what the feds will think, or the specious legal “reasoning” that permits the feds to regulate what kind of plant a person can smoke–it’s all just drivel. Like what the definition of the word “is” is. The Majesty of the Law, and all that.

    To Kleiman, I would say: If you truly care about legalization, then help us. If you despise us and think we’re idiots, then at least just get out of the way. And at the very least, stop giving aid and comfort to the enemy. Otherwise, we may confuse you for one of them.

  6. Mark Kleiman says:

    Paul, you mustn’t take seriously what Pete says about what I said. He’s rather economical with the truth.

    If the proposition on the ballot were a straight-up repeal of California’s cannabis laws, it would be Constitutional, and I’d be for it. But the actual proposition is a fraud: it pretends that California can regulate and tax at the state level something that’s a felony at the federal level.

    As to being mistaken for one of the enemy, I’m rather proud of the fact that the fanatical drug warriors and the fanatical legalizers both consider me an enemy, though it’s confusing when the warriors call me a legalizer and the legalizers call me a prohibitionist.

    In fact, I’m someone who tries to exercise independent judgment. Pete and his allies can’t understand that, and can’t stand it. Tough.

  7. Shap says:

    The one question that Mark Kleiman has failed to answer is how realistically the federal government could enforce its marijuana laws in a state the size of California with absolutely no state or local law enforcement assistance. He gives absolutely no explanation as to how this could possibly be done even though it is vitally important to his argument that the feds won’t “tolerate that.” Also, he fails to recognize the lack of impact that Raich has had on medical marijuana in California, which as we all know is widespread and only slightly affected by sparse DEA raids of random dispensaries (which are permitted as a result of the Raich decision). These reasons alone are why Mark Kleiman’s OpEd is so flawed on both policy grounds and constitutional grounds.

  8. Windy says:

    What Mr. Kleiman overlooks (forgets? ignores?) is that, Constitutionally, the power of the individual states is much broader than the federal government’s powers; and state power (literally and legally), trumps federal law; not the other way around. Just because the federal government ignores and violates the Constitution on a regular basis does not make it less valid. He needs to reread the 10th Amendment, (and the 9th). The individual states absolutely can nullify federal laws within their borders (and do, already — REAL ID, federal gun restrictions, and more).

  9. Mike says:

    Does Kleinman really know where he’s going when he mentions international treaties? These treaties were implemented to prevent diversion and trafficking. It’s worth noting that several countries allow their citizens to “produce” marijuana with absolutely NO penalties, within limits.

    One could even look at India, where some states actually have government-run marijuana shops, for religious use, of course. Or perhaps mention other asian states where grandfather clauses were made for opiate use.

    Under the UN treaties, all California (or any other state in the US) would have to do is place wording in their constitution allowing for medical/personal use, while preventing trafficking to be in compliance with international law.

    When you already have approximately half of the US living (rather successfully) under decriminalization/medical use laws, it really is only a matter of time before “majority rules” and the feds will be forced to reclassify marijuana, making it’s production not only legal, but internationally accepted.

    I won’t even touch states rights…

  10. Paul says:


    I’m glad to hear you would vote for a simple repeal. So would I, and I would prefer that to the complicated and hesitant voter initiative that is now before us. But what we have here, now, is this imperfect initiative. I’m going to vote for it, and you should, too. It’s messy, but it is better than sitting back and doing nothing.

    A couple of comments on your editorial:

    “Legalizing cannabis isn’t a terrible idea, but I’d very much prefer to do it on a non-commercial (grow-your-own or consumers’ co-op) basis rather than creating a multibillion-dollar industry full of profit-driven firms trying to encourage as much cannabis use as possible.”

    As a libertarian, I am not afraid to stand up loud and proud for freedom and say, “Marijuana should be legal and entirely unregulated!” I know there may be some minor consequences, but they are nothing next to the value of freedom. I also don’t see anything wrong with a multi-billion dollar industry. I would prefer to buy my marijuana packaged, labeled, and free of stems and seeds, rather than go through the hassle growing my own. If this makes me a fanatic, so be it.

    “In any case, whenever and however we legalize the Demon Weed, it’s going to have to be at the national level (which includes modifying the anti-drug treaties) rather than state by state. Any other approach is a pipe dream.”

    Not at all true! It is happening now, before our eyes. The states are going their own way regardless of what the Federal government thinks–as is their constitutional right in the plain text of the bill of rights that any American, even federal judges, can read. That the supreme court decided otherwise in Raich and a slew of cowardly New Deal decisions doesn’t change the truth the Federal government has long overstepped its bounds.

    If the states assert themselves through initiatives like this one, or on other matters, I say more power to ’em. It’s been a long time coming. I’ll take these victories, and inasmuch as it steals the wind from the Fed’s sails, so much the better.

    Let’s face it–neither of us is likely to get legalization on our terms. So compromise, and vote for the initiative. It’s got warts, but it is WAY better than keeping marijuana illegal.

  11. Kevin says:

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think that Mark Kleiman is simply speculating as to what would happen if Prop. 19 passes. He did say that he’ll vote for it, as will I.

    Believe me, simply passing 19 will not be the end of the argument. There will be a federal reaction of SOME sort, but I don’t know exactly what shape it will take. Alaska legalized small amounts of cannabis 30 years ago. What happened then will probably happen this time. But at least we won’t be arrested by the state and local authorities. That would be major progress.

    I personally think the poll numbers are higher in our favor than the news is showing. Many people won’t publicly admit they are voting for it, but they will do it in a private voting booth. VOTE FOR PROP. 19!

  12. Hey the Constitution is the supreme law of the land. The federal government is not given ANY powers over individuals consuming marijuana. If Kleiman wants to live in a country where the government ignores the constitution he should move to Cuba.

  13. claygooding says:

    I don’t care WHO Mark Kleiman is and could care even less what he thinks.
    And Kerli’s opinion or ideas on drug control only support his continued budget of billions.
    What Kleiman and the federal government can’t get past is this is not a political act but an outright effort by the majority of the people and not by the bought and paid for politicians that they are experienced at dealing with.
    Neither the Democrats or the Republicans opinions on the
    issue means anything,nor the opinions of political candidates.
    This issue is for the people,by the people and of the people and the feds are going to have to stand up and
    either get behind it or show the world and the American public that those words have no meaning in our constitution.

  14. Emma says:

    Mark Kleiman and his pal Peter Reuter, annoying control freaks.

    Anyway, a guest on CNN says all politicians should try LSD because it cured his fear of death. And an editorial in the Lancet Oncology encourages clinical studies of psychedelics in terminally ill patients.

    On (North) American organizations, what about the Drug Policy Alliance, or the International Centre for Science in Drug Policy (Vancouver), or the Drug Policy Project at the Institute for Policy Studies (director Sanho Tree)?

    [Technical complaint: Whenever I accidently write two angle quotes (<)(<) in a comment this site hangs for a long time.]

  15. ezrydn says:


    I hold both a Ph.D and a JD and I quit listening to you long ago. It had nothing to do with Pete’s comments nor opinion. It’s very obvious to an outsider how wobbly your world view is. When Pete posts a story, it’s chucked with reference URLs to verify what he’s saying. I haven’t see a lot of that from your end. Not saying you don’t use references but it’s not as noticable as Pete’s usage.

    Pete didn’t cause me to disagree with you. You’re own writings have done that. Your pieces have turned into “humor,” at the “sad” end of the stick. I’ll bet you would have been Johnny-On-The-Spot to tell Rosa Parks to go on to the back of the bus because……. Some of us realize that it can start with “one lone voice.” Some still don’t get it.

  16. Sam Sharp says:

    It is dangerous to be right when your government is wrong. Whether legal cannabis means stores opening or not can and should be debated. The bottom line, however is that nobody should have their life destroyed by the possesion/cultivation and use of a resonable amount of this substance. The urine test for cannabis use should also be banned along with the zero-tolerance laws concerning drugged driving. Nobody wants impaired drivers on the road, but charging a completely sober person with drugged driving because he/she smoked a joint two weeks ago is rather insane. Where’s the common sense?

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  19. BluOx says:

    CA.Prop. 19 will pass and prohibition of marijuana will end…because I said so. Pete is always right and who’s Mark Kleiman?

  20. Pete says:

    Thanks, Mark, for stopping by. I always appreciate it when someone I write about is willing to come and discuss, set me straight, agree with me, disagree with me, whatever.

    And thanks to the other commenters for your reasoned comments. Mark and I can call each other names, but once he’s a commenter on a thread here, he should always be treated with civility, and you guys have done that. Keep it up.


    On (North) American organizations, what about the Drug Policy Alliance, or the International Centre for Science in Drug Policy (Vancouver), or the Drug Policy Project at the Institute for Policy Studies (director Sanho Tree)?

    You’re absolutely right — ICSDP is a great new addition to our continent, and I am a huge admirer of Sanho Tree’s work.

    [Technical complaint: Whenever I accidently write two angle quotes (<)(<) in a comment this site hangs for a long time.]

    Those are “tag” delimiters for html coding, so the site may be trying to figure out if you’re writing html when you use those. I’ll see if there’s anything that can be done about fixing the hang time.


    Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think that Mark Kleiman is simply speculating as to what would happen if Prop. 19 passes. He did say that he’ll vote for it, as will I.

    Of course, he didn’t say he’ll vote for it in the OpEd. In the OpEd, he said that Proposition 19 is a pipe dream. He implies that there’s no point in even voting for it.

    Now, if the thrust of his article was that the federal government could (or would likely) end up interfering and making it harder for California to collect the taxes it should be getting from marijuana, then that would be a different story. Then it comes down to the very real conflict between the state and the feds, which is much more complicated and nuanced than the OpEd shows (and that many would be ready to roll up their sleeves and attack).

    Look, I don’t think that the average Californian believes that this is going to be problem-free if it passes, but they’re ready to give it a try, and they’re also not afraid of making the most powerful statement that you can make to the federal government. They’re also becoming aware that prohibition has so many flaws that they’ve got do to something, and can’t wait forever for Congress to figure out how to count past 3.

    Mark addresses none of these issues and instead delivers a facile “it won’t work, nothing to see here, move along.”

  21. @emma — the less than and greater than signs are used to designate tags in html. since the comments can include html, you are basically gumming up the works with the arrows. you should probably try using a different character to do whatever you were trying to to do.

  22. Just me. says:

    Mark said:If the proposition on the ballot were a straight-up repeal of California’s cannabis laws.

    So Mark, why dont they just straight up repeal it? Hold on , Ill tell you why. Those against it have so demonized canabis that people who dont consume it wont vote to legalize it. Taxes are just a way to get that vote. Eventually those taxes may not even matter because anyone with a green thumb can (and will) grow it. On way or another, this stupid law will fall. There is not good reason for it to stand when the can be some truth and sanity in our laws. Truth and sanity just dosnt sit well with politicians just votes and money.

  23. jackl says:

    Pete, thank you for your “Kleiman watch” feature. And thank you, Mr. Kleiman, for stopping by to debate and for also making your own blog more interactive over time by entertaining reader comments.

    My critique of the “criminal justice” academics exemplified by Mark Kleiman is that you guys are somewhat in an echo chamber, still espousing the “get tough on criminals”, John Q. Wilson “broken windows” rhetoric of the Reagan years and all that goes with it (the immutability of the war on drugs). Yet it’s equally obvious that times have changed. The demographic most strongly opposed to change is literally dying off, and being replaced by Boomers, Gen-X, Y and milllenials. Only those who came of age when Sinatra or Elvis was riding high in the charts rather than the Beatles or Bob Dylan or later musicians (hip hop?!) regard marijuana as a bogeyman.

    I understand from Mr. Kleiman’s prolific writings themselves (not Pete’s characterization) that Mr. Kleiman wants to have it both ways. His main target is more debilitating drugs, cocaine and meth, and his proposal to deal with those is this kind of more intense probation with lots of drug testing and short imprisonment (like weekends, so you can go back to work on Monday if you fail a drug test). A kind of “kinder, gentler” prohibition, hopefully with fewer SWAT teams, dead golden retrievers and inherent racism. At the same time, like the true prohibitionist, although he’ll readily agree cannabis is not the bogeyman of cocaine, cannabis must be also prohibited at all costs, lest the entire legal facade of drug prohibition come crashing down.

    No one has a crystal ball, Kleiman included. IF the thing passes, and IF it works as expected by Rand, maybe the retail price of good bud will crash to double digits per ounce and the U-Hauls will be heading for California. What the feds will do at that time, IMNSHO is really anyone’s guess. Did anyone mention here our unprecedented economic crisis, the gridlock in Congress where even extending unemployment to the jobless is somehow controversial, problematic.

    Not just the deep economic malaise of our times but this Prohibition II debate put me in mind of the early 1930’s in America, before FDR’s election in 1932. The senator from 1930’s quote about the hummingbird flying to Mars towing the Washington Monument being equal to the chances of prohibition’s repeal (which, of course, required not only declining to enforce a conflicting law but actually amending the Constitution). Strange things can happen when a third of the populace is un or underemployed, as far as politics go.

    If prohibition were a stock, I’d consider shorting it now, Mr. Kleiman.

    As far as “federalism”, someone above mentioned Raich as allowing the Feds to squelch the California laws as violating their Commerce Clause powers, but this morning’s New York Times discusses how conservatives are annoyed with prospective Justice Elena Kagan because she SUPPORTS the use of the Commerce Clause for progressive purposes, such as the recent health insurance reform.

    I know Republican hypocrisy can make your head spin like the girl in Steven King’s The Exorcist, but I think slamming “big government” and “Obamacare” is more important to Republicans than also arguing for more big federal government intervention over a state’s wishes, even allowing flakey Californians to shamelessly violate morals in a way that might have given cultural conservatives apoplexy in 1982.

    With the economy on the brink and the legal seas are roiled by these huge economic cross currents, I don’t put much stock in token culture war declarations made during the last bubble by the “Rehnquist” court.

  24. Scott says:

    Our ultimate goal is the federal repeal of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) as unconstitutional.

    Each provision in the relevant international treaties requires national constitutionality. Such repealing immediately ends our obligation to abide by them.

    Such repealing will eventually happen, at least considering that prohibitionists literally do not have a single sustainable point for sustaining the CSA.

    We the so-called “legalizers”, “druggies”, etc. have been demonized for decades.

    Our perceived credibility is apparently improving, given our ability to intelligently and publicly communicate using the Internet and our opponents’ failure to do so, leading to more appearances in the mainstream media.

    However, based on the lack of any serious challenge against the CSA yet, our credibility is still lacking from the perspective of the CSA-supporting part of the public who we need to persuade to help us break the political iron triangle entrenching prohibitionist support.

    Instead of just going to the public with a lengthy set of valid reasons why the CSA is a disaster, it helps to bypass our ‘perceived credibility problem’ by simply shifting the burden-of-proof, challenging any prohibitionist to publicly prove their credibility, such proving not easy to dodge with our increased presence on the national stage beside them.

    It is a much easier strategy for us to implement, politely asking any prohibitionist to reasonably substantiate their proclamation that disaster strikes when we weaken our drug laws.

    Drug laws have been weakened on many occasions over the past few decades.

    “Legalizing” (in quotes, because the prohibition is unlawful by any rational interpretation of our nation’s written foundation) in California is important, because it presents another opportunity to show that weakening drug laws does not lead to disaster. The law may not be perfect (is any?), but any CSA opponent should vote for it.

    The two questions we should be constantly publicly asking are:

    1. Where is the disaster after weakening the drug laws?

    2. Where is the “We told you so!” coming from the mouths of prohibitionists now that we weakened the drug laws?

    Prohibitionists must be able to convincingly answer these questions, because…

    No disaster equals no point in funding support for the CSA.

    No disaster equals no prohibitionist credibility.

    No disaster and no prohibitionist credibility likely equals expedited repealing of the CSA.

  25. Conservative Christian says:

    A vote against proposition 19 is a vote to keep putting our own young people in PRISON.

    I’d like to reach out to “soccer moms” and other people who are legitimately, intimately interested in the well-being of children and teens. As a “swim dad” (a near-relative and kindred spirit with soccer moms), I can say that I hope my kids don’t use marijuana, but if they do, I REALLY hope they don’t end up in jail! I hope that all parents will join in the fight to stop putting our own kids in jail over something as silly as marijuana. Yes, it dumbs a person down for a little while (about as bad as a day on the video games) and yes, it has some minor health effects (about as bad as smoking a cigarette, I suppose), but none of those are NEARLY as bad as the effects of being locked up IN JAIL WITH THE SEXUAL PREDATORS, and loss of financial aid, and all of the other bad stuff that comes, not from the marijuana, but from the LAW. It’s time to quit letting the government officials ruin our kids’ lives over a little marijuana! This is a KEY: As parents, we need to consider the harm caused by jail and a criminal record that could happen to OUR KID if he or she got a little off track. The greatest harm marijuana can bring to our children is the potential jail time.
    California parents need to also out for the “October Surprise” (some hyped-up scare stories about marijuana), and let’s quit putting our own kids in jail! You can be CERTAIN that the other side is going to mount an October Surprise on this topic, so get your people talking about it NOW so that it won’t be so impressive when it gets rolled out.
    3) California citizens can register to vote at
    h t t p s : / / w w w .sos.ca.gov/nvrc/fedform/ Just fill out the form and mail it in!

  26. Servetus says:

    Re Mark Kleiman: “…it [Prop.19] pretends that California can regulate and tax at the state level something that’s a felony at the federal level.”

    A tax base already exists among many cannabis growers. Voluntary state and federal income tax payments act to give the grower (AKA ‘farmer’) a visible source of income to establish lines of credit and to make loan applications that require copies of filed tax returns. Bank deposits of cash receipts work best when conducted under a legitimate business umbrella.

    A state tax stamp of the sort used on cigarette packages and liquor bottles might prove useful in collecting a marijuana tax, as well as for protecting the business interests of California growers. The stamp could be used to the advantage of the grower to certify that the product is grown in California, giving buyer preference to a U.S. domestic product over the ditch weed produced in drug-war-ravaged Mexico.

    Numerous legal adjustments were made by California in the aftermath of Prop. 215. The same will be true for Prop. 19. Improved methods to capture marijuana tax revenue will continue to be worked out well after Prop. 19 passes. In the long term, as legalization and regulation evolves to bring about brick and mortar outlets that sell cannabis, tax collection problems will ease up. Until then, it’s the problem of the revenuers.

    Overall, it’s best to consider Prop. 19 as a work in progress, one that produces a new social and legal dynamic which ultimately leads to the end of the drug war.

  27. Duncan says:

    Ya know at first glimpse I read the title of this blog entry as “Mark Kleiman is a crook. I thought is Pete trying to get sued?

    I guess my Freudian slip is showing…

  28. Kevin says:

    Well, Kleiman is entitled to his opinion. We have to convince more people than just him to vote for 19.

    There are MANY things wrong with 19 as written. I have no idea what was in the minds of the authors of this measure when they included several counterproductive elements to the bill.

    Be that as it may, I say Pass 19 now, and fix it later. I just want to see the end of all these arrests that are taking place.

    I also want to see Industrial Hemp become a major crop for California’s farmers. It’s not mentioned in 19, but if cannabis growing is legalized, wouldn’t hemp production be legalized at the same time? The 19 people told me that it wouldn’t but it seems to me that this would be a by-product of cannabis legalization.

  29. Rev. Run says:

    Kleiman’s addicted to lies and bullshit just like some people are addicted to heroin.

    He hangs out in the same room as the Drug Czar (cf. his little-watched C-SPAN video on slowing-but-not-stopping the Afghan Opium trade, with Jonathan Caulkins, et. al.) He knows that the federal government has no interest or intention on doing anything about the UN Single Convention on drugs. He knows that federally elected politicians outside of California will do nothing to change our nation’s drug laws. (It was seen as a victory when Sen. Jim Webb commissioned a report on overreliance on incarceration.) He knows that Prop. 19, as imperfect as it is, is the best chance we have to reallocate law enforcement resources away from harmless pleasure-seekers. You don’t need to be historically informed, trained in policy analysis or even much of an imagination to understand this: just look at the peaceful flourishing of CA’s current medical cannabis regime. It’s a disorderly mess. It’s also a vast improvment on locking up sick people or forcing them to suffer or stopping/harrassing/arresting/indicting/convicting peaceable cannabis consumers. This was the status quo ante. This is what Kleiman wants back.

    So Mark Kleiman’s a smart guy. He went to Harvard. He has a Ph.D. We’re all supposed to be permanently impressed and never question that anything he says could be wrong.

    I don’t know if Pete Guither went to Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. I don’t know if he has a Master’s, let alone a Ph.D. But does it matter that he’s, y’know, actually correct in both his overall evaluation and all the particulars of Kleiman’s moral idiocy and embarrassing, shit-the-bed impracticality?

    A pointyhead like Kleiman should at least be smart enough to realize that successful reformers like Martin Luther King and Mahatma Gandhi didn’t create change by punctiliously following the letter of the law.

    Listen up, Kleiman: We’re working within the law and trying to bend the law with the only peaceful methods that we have. Your ridiculous moral preening, gnashing of teeth, rending of garments is not just morally repugnant, it’s fucking annoying.

    [Edit: Keep it civil, please, Rev.]

  30. claygooding says:

    Kevin,hemp is why marijuana was,made illegal in the first place. But the people behind the prohibition of marijuana could not find any reason or justification for prohibiting hemp outright,so they used marijuana as the wagon to pull hemp off the market.
    Since William Hearst owned over 1 million acres of pulpwood forests,or the timber rights to them and he wanted hemp removed to insure that his pulpwood investment would make him as much money as possible and he also owned the largest newspaper chain in the country,he printed every horror story he could about marijuana and wrote several editorials about the “devil weed”.
    He was joined in financing the campaign by Dupont chemical company,because they own the patents for the chemicals required to process the pulpwood into paper
    and the cotton industry joined when they realized that hemp was to be banned,because hemp was the only major
    competition cotton had at that time,rayon and nylon were not invented at that time,by Dupont(justice?).
    And those industries still want hemp prohibited today just as they did then.
    They are the hidden lobbyist against cannabis legalization,funding the anti-marijuana coalition so they can keep their profits secure and hemp illegal.

  31. johnnyhollywood says:

    Americans love convenient and cheap goods. with that being said “lazy” pot smokers would love to stop in the store and grab some bud and leave ala getting cigarettes at 711. much easier than calling your dealer setting up a meeting etc. the thing is lazy pot smokers is a stereotype so there will be plenty who grow or continue to visit their regular dealer, who is often times a friend. I feel like it will be a nice balance and although it will not solve our budget problems it is a step in the right direction. despite all the history those backpacking tourists in europe visit amsterdam for one big reason. now think about the pot-tourism in california. will those tourist get the herb from the black market? doubt it. every politician can talk about 19 till they are blue in the face but how many have used dope, bought dope from a dealer, or grown it? ask your friends family neighbors if drugs were legal would you use them? would your grandma use heroin if it was legal? your brother smoke crack cause he couldn’t get in trouble? lets legalize them all before our next (unwinnable) war is against mexico. power to the peaceful

  32. Chris says:

    So anyway, I’ve been busy watching season 3 of The Wire. Almost finished too.

  33. Steve in Clearwater says:

    jackl: “Steven King’s The Exorcist….”

    William Peter Blatty, mi amigo.

    Showing my age in Clearwater….Hope all is well up your way in that NY

  34. Steve in Clearwater says:

    The pigs at the DEA of course don’t even remotely have the manpower or other resources needed to “bust growers and suppliers” following the passage of Prop 19.

    This is evidenced by the literally thousands of state-legal MMJ growers and suppliers who have been operating without federal interference for well over a decade within the state of California.

    Though each such DEA raid is unsettling, the fact is that they are amazingly infrequent and all have required cooperation of local sheriff’s and/or city police agencies.

    Those agencies will be far less interested in cooperating with any such raids under Prop 19, since such cooperation would result in immediate loss of important tax revenue to both the state and their respective counties.

  35. Alex says:

    Kleiman is the David Broder of drug policy, a man whose core intellectual commitment is to relentlessly reasserting that he stands at some imaginary middle point between “the fanatical drug warriors and the fanatical legalizers.” Never mind that he has no idea who the “fanatical legalizers” are, and never mind that the financial incentives for continually currying favor with the drug war establishment are glaringly obvious: Kleiman nevertheless pretends he’s taking a really principled and original stance in doling out condescension in two directions simultaneously.

    There’s another name for this type of behavior: it’s called being a triangulator, and there’s nothing intellectually interesting about it. It’s just careerist, timid, middle-of-the-road b.s. in a tweed jacket.

  36. allan420 says:

    yo Steve! I don’t have a working email address for you… send me a note with new addy please!

    discussing illegal drugs policies is pointless unless one devotes some energy to also discussing prohibition. I’d sure like to see Mark and Co. devote some energy to discussing that. But that’s like trying to explain that previously unnoticed little sore on your junk to your girlfriend… huh Mark?

  37. Shap says:

    Season 3 of The Wire was incredible. That is all.

  38. TrebleBass says:

    Similar to the RAND study, I just can’t help to be suspicious that Mark Kleiman is just trying to get Prop 19 to lose. Why wasn’t he talking about this “the feds won’t allow it” stuff one year ago when the Ammiano bill was introduced, or when the initiative made the ballot? If it was this important, why wait until now to say it?

    To be fair to him, maybe he said it and I didn’t find out.

  39. paul says:

    This story here is related to what we’re talking about, but not quite on topic:


    Oakland just past an ordinance regulating pot farms. The interesting elements here are that the argument was between large pot farmers and small garden patch farmers–not between growers and prohibitionists. Ha.

    Also interesting was an off-hand, unattributed statement that prop 19 had around 50% approval. If true, this represents a big improvement over the last poll results.

    I’m also enjoying the leftist complaint that the small pot farmers are about to be squeezed out by big “agribusiness”. Looks like pot will someday become uncool.

  40. kaptinemo says:

    This reminds me of something, a conversation Sukoi and I had a year ago, in which he had related to me a instance where a reformer was challenging a cop to provide a reason for not making cannabis legal again; all the cop could say was “We can’t! We just can’t!” It caused me to recall that press conference held by Barry McCaffrey, Janet Reno and Donna Shalala immediately after Prop215 had passed, in which Shalala justified her opposition by saying use of cannabis was ‘wrong!’.

    No mental gymnastics needed, no exercise of the gray matters to come up with a rationale for the position…nope, it’s just ‘wrong’.

    Although it’s vastly more wordy, Professor Kleiman’s arguments seem to boil down to the same level of stubborn retrenchment of trying to defend the indefensible…purely on faith and not fact.

    But, no matter. The inexorable force exerted on society by an ever-contracting economy, with millions out of work and 5 applicants for every remaining job, and with certain political forces (whose names always seem to be followed by a letter “R”) seeking to cut the fiscal throats of those they’ve already raped (i.e. the Meltdown, engineered by their banker puppet-masters) by refusing to extend unemployment benefits, the time is fast approaching where a civil society will become very uncivil, and very soon. There’s nothing like a little adversity in making a somnambulistic public rouse itself and take a look at what was happening when it was sleeping. It usually results in the kind of interest in things political that the Elite are tirelessly trying to prevent, for it always ends in the populace once more taking a serious interest in their own governance.

    Harsh questions will be asked by an ever more impatient electorate, such as how can we continue to spend so much on something that returns so little (the DrugWar) when we have people literally going hungry for lack of that aforementioned unemployment insurance..the money for which has been eaten up by the DrugWar, and the only thing it does is defecate prisons…which we can’t afford to run, now. Not with the current level of incarceration.

    The time is fast approaching that the Very Serious People like Professor Kleiman will be swept away by historical events, such as the passage of 19. Apologists for prohibition will eventually be relegated to the social dust-bin, as was the Temperance League after alcohol Prohibition ended.

    The ‘bell’ is ‘tolling’ for drug prohibitionists; the end of cannabis prohibition, and possibly all of drug prohibition shortly thereafter, is growing nearer all the time. And those who hear that bell and shiver in fear will continue to make brave noises…despite that ‘tolling’ growing ever louder. Soon it will drown them out, and no one will turn to them for advice, anymore. And that’s what’s got them in a cold sweat.

    And I say: GOOD!. Let them feel what we’ve had to deal with all our lives. They contributed to our misery with their support of (racially bigoted from it’s inception) drug prohibition, but as the old saying goes, “Misery loves company”. It’s long past time they had a taste…

  41. Rev. Run says:


    I think it’s generally agreed that Season 4 is the very best season of The Wire.

    I’m jealous that you have yet to watch it!

    (More drug war wisdom in that show than in the entire Mark Kleiman oeuvre!)


  42. Maria says:

    “Wow. A “black market” would come into play. Who knew? Did any of you imagine that conditions could ever occur where there would be a black market in marijuana? Good thing we’ve got criminalization, where you don’t have black markets.”

    If awards existed for paragraphs where every single word drips with tongue in cheekiness this one would definitely be a contender.

  43. johnny1 says:

    I am 48 y/o male. cant stand politics or politicians
    or prohibitionist

    I want to Vote for legalizing
    Prop 19 could be a step in the right direction , depends on who you talk to
    some like the status quo: prohibition/black market
    prisons are bursting with minority’s

    some want protection from incarceration ,who would not?

    after reading all the comments, Im even more tilted towards voting yes on 19
    The only part I dont like is the tax, Look at the financial mess the state is in .more money is not the answer.

    Im glad i found this blog.
    interesting comments

  44. Cliff says:

    “after reading all the comments, Im even more tilted towards voting yes on 19
    The only part I dont like is the tax, Look at the financial mess the state is in .more money is not the answer.

    Im glad i found this blog.
    interesting comments”


    Welcome to the struggle. If I was in CA I would vote for Prop 19 warts and all. I refer to this as calling out the prohibitionist bastards’ bluff. There’s no way the feds could lockdown CA unless the US federalizes all LEO’s and National Guard there.

    Furthermore, with CA on the economic ropes any threats of sanctions by the federal government will be met with empty stares from the state and local governments and outright outrage by the general population.

    The cognitive dissonance will be delicious. Get the popcorn ready.

  45. Erika Snow says:

    Pete- huge fan here! I think DrugWarRant is the best anti-prohibition blog out there (though hoping mine can compete someday).

    I posted my own rebuttal of Prof. Kleiman here: http://prop19myths.blogspot.com/2010/07/yes-professor-kleiman-california-can.html

    One point I think you might have hit harder is that California is already collecting at least $50-100 million in taxes from these still federally illegal medical dispensaries.

    I always look forward to more posts. 🙂

    • Pete says:

      Very nice piece, Erika! You’re right — I wish I had followed up on those points about medical marijuana taxation that you did so well.

  46. Shap says:

    I own all 5 seasons. Season 4 was a little dark and depressing for me personally. For me, it’s seasons 1, 3, and 5 that I love the most. Two is a little slow and 4 is a slit your wrists downer although the story is incredibly well told and the perspective is socially significant.

  47. Duncan says:

    We’re going to find out how accurate Mr Kleiman’s analysis is. Oakland is completing the final steps on having large supply farms for the dispensaries. From the scope of the plan it’ll be less than a year before they’re into death penalty quantities. What, you didn’t know you could get the death penalty for growing pot? Well yes, the SCOTUS would have to ok it but it is on the books.


  48. Pingback: Dude, It’s Prop 19, Man… « Around The Sphere

  49. LTR says:

    A few things I think that needs to be said right away.

    California cannot legalize a felony? It already has. Medical marijuana is not distinct at all under Federal law, yet multiple states have legalized medical marijuana cultivation. The Feds have the authority under the commerce clause from Raich to raid, but the DEA has limited resources. The distinction he draws in the article that there are good Constitutional and legal reasons to not prosecute medical marijuana sellers/cultivators is bunk. Under the CSA, there is virtually no distinction between medical marijuana and marijuana for recreational purposes. The Feds have full authority to come into California with the DEA and FBI and bust every medical marijuana shop there. Once again see Raich. Yet despite this Federal authority, the Feds do not do so for various complex reasons. The obvious is logistics. It would take a lot of resources to go after it all. The not-so-obvious is public backlash, a state/Federal clash while ignoring the will of the people of the said state, and simple benefit calculations. Fear has not stopped people from opening up shops, filing paperwork with local government regulations for medical marijuana, etc. Some were prosecuted, but in the end, only a few. The reality is that a state legalizing recreational marijuana is the only way Congress would ever pay attention to this issue. Arguing against state legalization of marijuana is arguing against legalizing marijuana on the Federal level, as no amount letter writing or lobbying will make them understand on this issue.

    The other issue in the Op-Ed is that the price being so cheap will have all illicit drug dealers around the country and surrounding countries coming to California to purchase their cannabis in bulk for ultra cheap prices and then distributing them. Well, by the time these dealers got back to their states, the price would already be substantially higher than it was before since it was risky driving through all the prohibitionist states. Ditto for the Canadian border. It would still be pot smuggling and the price would still be inflated, just as you can purchase marijuana for dirt cheap within Mexico, but travel a few hours north across the border, and the price is up 200%. Risk=increased price. Buying from California and then moving it will inflate the price right away. Plus, even if this did happen, better that business flocks to some type of regulated market than drug cartels.

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