More think tank nonsense

Beau Kilmer, co-director of RAND’s drug policy research center writes in the Wall Street Journal: The Marijuana Exception

He starts out with some good basic truths (marijuana legalization would save arrests, dollars, etc.) and then gets into the “murky” parts.

Here’s one:

Another big unknown is how marijuana legalization would influence alcohol consumption. It is natural to assume that pot would serve as a substitute (higher use would decrease heavy drinking), but it is equally likely that it would be a complement (higher use would increase heavy drinking). The scientific literature on this is inconclusive.

Equally likely? In what possible world is that equally likely? Is it “equally” likely merely because the literature is inconclusive?

Perhaps Kilmer should turn to the study that RAND helped support: Alcohol, Marijuana, and American Youth: The Unintended Effects of Government Regulation, which found a clear substitution effect. There are other studies online as well.

It’s this magical “equally likely” seemingly snatched out of the air that leads him to baselessly speculate:

By the same token, even a small increase in heavy drinking could outweigh any benefits of legalization.

Then he concludes:

One thing is certain. Nothing we do about marijuana would dramatically reduce the harms associated with the larger “war on drugs.” The market for hard drugs is much larger in dollars, in violence and in the number of offenders behind bars. If these are the critical problems, then marijuana legalization is a sideshow, not the main event.

Really? The elimination of 800,000 arrests isn’t a dramatic harm reduction? What about the corruption in law enforcement from marijuana money and seizures? What about the stop and frisk racial harassment in poor neighborhoods that entirely related to marijuana possession?

Sure, we need to get rid of the entire drug war (so marijuana legalization won’t eliminate drug war harms), but marijuana legalization seems to me to have some pretty dramatic social savings and reductions in drug war harm.

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51 Responses to More think tank nonsense

  1. Dante says:

    “If these are the critical problems, then marijuana legalization is a sideshow, not the main event.”

    Dead wrong. There is no other crime, no other combination of crimes, that results in the arrest of over 800,000 people per year. Marijuana prohibition is the number one focus of our criminal justice bureaucracy. Take that away overnight (poof!) and what would happen? The DEA would get smaller and less expensive. Drug Task Forces would be disbanded, resulting in smaller and cheaper local & state police forces. Almost one million Americans would not be arrested, resulting in less expensive court budgets. Fewer prisoners would need to be housed, resulting in less expensive jail budgets. On and on and on, the results would be dramatic and very cost efficient.

    Naturally, the drug warriors disagree. I wonder why?

    Protect & Serve (Themselves!)

  2. Francis says:

    Yep, it’s “equally likely” that booze sales will increase following cannabis legalization. Heck, it might even be more likely. My guess is that the big players in the alcohol industry are secretly behind a lot of the cannabis legalization efforts. We all know that the “legalization lobby” is suspiciously “well-funded.”

    More seriously, can’t we look at what has happened to alcohol consumption (and of far greater importance, alcohol-related pathologies) in states that have legalized medical cannabis? Wouldn’t that provide at least some guidance? (Let’s be honest. In California at least the situation comes very close to de facto across-the-board legalization.) If memory serves, a recent study found that mmj states experienced a 9% decline in traffic fatalities, which appears to be largely attributable to a decline in drunk driving. As I mentioned in a recent thread, someone needs to be looking at what happened to alcohol and prescription overdose deaths, domestic violence, homicide and violent crime rates, etc. (Pete, you’re an academic. Make some phone calls! :))

  3. darkcycle says:

    That has to be wrong. HAS to be. Marijuana is both the most widely used illicit drug AND the most economical to produce. It also requires no refinement, extraction or processing. And the volume of trade for these drugs can only be guessed at, but the trade in marijuana likely dwarfs the trade in the harder drugs by orders of magnitude.

    • Duncan20903 says:


      We need look no further than California and the staggering amount of sales tax collected by that State’s authorized medicinal cannabis vendors. The sum total of which is likely pushing a 1/4 of a billion dollars on as much as $2.5 billion in sales. What makes this number truly remarkable is that it represents voluntary taxation and it’s unlikely that California managed to tax even 10% of gross sales. I was expecting large but these numbers leave me fish mouthing astonished. I think it safe to speculate that the cannabis market in the US is orders of magnitude larger than even the most extreme estimates. Jeff Miron is probably wrong by at least a factor of 10.

      • primus says:

        OK easy numbers: 310 million USans. 10% take cannabis. 31 million. Use ULTRA-conservative estimate of 1/4 oz per month, 3 oz per year per. Comes out to 2906 tons per year, or about 8 tons (256,000 oz) per day. You can tweak the numbers a bit, using higher or lower numbers of cannabians but it’s still a large number. Assume a tax of $20 per oz, which is very reasonable-it could easily be double or triple that. Yields about $5 million per day. Wow. $40 tax yealds $10 mil, and $60 tax yields $15 million per day, every day of the year. I can’t remember; how does that compare to Miron’s numbers?

  4. N.T. Greene says:

    You’d need to take a course in logic in order to tease out the number of fallacies in their arguments sometimes…

    I suppose, lucky for them, logic isn’t taught in primary or high school usually, and most people don’t take it in college either…

    But man, if you could see what was going on you’d be projectile vomiting all over your screen at just how bad the arguments have become.

    • Francis says:

      Seriously, I get the sense that drug warriors are required to take advanced logic courses. But they’re learning about logical fallacies, not to avoid them, but in order to employ them more effectively in their propaganda. Their logical fallacy to statement ratio is just WAY too high to be the result of an unstudied amateur. In a sick way, it’s actually impressive.

    • Duncan20903 says:

      It’s already cost me two laptops and a smart phone.

  5. N.T. Greene says:

    Just repeat after me: “Correlation does not imply causation.”

    “Correlation does not imply causation.”

    “Correlation does not imply causation…”

  6. While it is possible that burritos could be a substitute for cheeseburgers, it is equally likely that they would act as a compliment. As no studies have been published on this phenomenon, we have no way of knowing for sure.

    Obesity is already a major problem in this country. There’s no reason to exacerbate the problem by legalizing yet another high-fat, calorie-laden food product.

    • darkcycle says:

      Yes, and we have no way of knowing if the consumption of cheeseburgers may trigger people to increase their consumption of burritos! If the consumption of cheeseburgers only slightly increases the damage to society caused by burritos, it’s just NOT WORTH IT.

      • Duncan20903 says:

        It’s too damn early in the day for Mexican food.

        • kaptinemo says:

          (Shivers) Yeah, my gut can’t take that so early. And my coworkers would not appreciate the inevitably, uh, er, fragrant result…

        • allan says:

          oh man… chorizo and egg or chorizo and papas refritas breakfast burritos… or just a couple of fried eggs w/ homemade tortillas and fresh salsa… huevos rancheros…

          I’m going to bed now so I can get up and have some!

        • darkcycle says:

          OH HOW GROSS. The concept of “breakfast” is one that I haven’t been able to get my stomach around in fifteen years. Chronic wasting/IBD. Hence my “medical”. Takes me a joint and at least two hours to come up with an appetite.
          Ugh. And I cannot tolerate eggs. They’re good for four hours of agony.

  7. primus says:

    IIRC there have been several such articles in the WSJ lately, all full of the same rhetorical bullshit. Is the WSJ the ultimate tool of the establishment? Do we need to land on them like a ton of bricks? You bet. Wonder if they will be interested in printing the truth once it is pointed out? Magic eight ball says ‘doubtful’.

    • Dave in Florida says:

      “Is the WSJ the ultimate tool of the establishment? ”

      News Corp owns The WSJ. Rupert Murdock owns News Corp. They also own Fox News, The New York Post, as well as Tabloids in the UK and Australia

  8. Duncan20903 says:

    The Know Nothing prohibitionist examines arguments in favor of drug law reform and concludes, “If things were different, they’d be exactly the same.”

  9. TrebleBass says:

    Marijuana is by far the most widely used currently criminalized drug. Legalization of marijuana is not a sideshow.

  10. kaptinemo says:

    More of the “3.8” rule, where 2+2=3.8 as far as the prohibs are concerned. They get most of the facts right, then fall flat on their face at the very end by mouthing prohib BS.

    And these RAND people are purportedly intellectuals. More proof of the failure of the American education system…

  11. claygooding says:

    Rand is a non-profit think tank whose CEO is also a board member of a pharmaceutical company and anything Rand studies is at the bequest of the government.

    The government and the pharmaceutical companies are searching for any means to dismiss the harm to the cartels by legalization of marijuana. It is why Rand took the 60 billion dollar marijuana market down to less than 5 billion in one study.

  12. TrebleBass says:

    “Finally, it is clear that legalization would greatly decrease price and, therefore, increase the number of both recreational and heavy marijuana users.”

    Why would people who don’t use marijuana all of the sudden be interested in smoking it just because it’s cheaper? I get that people who already smoke it might smoke more of it, but why would anyone pick it up just because of a lower price? Some people would claim that the mere fact of it being legal would increase use, but that did not happen in the many places around the world that decriminalized, it did not happen in medical marijuana states, and it didn’t even happen in Holland where coffeeshops are legal. The RAND people have said before that “the biggest increase would be in problem use”. That’s a way of making it sound like a lot of people who are now non-users would all of the sudden become problem users. What it really means is that the biggest increase in use would be by those people who already use it, which would not scare most of the people that for honest reasons support prohibition. Most people who for honest reasons support prohibition do so because they imagine a very big increase in amount of users.

  13. Duncan20903 says:


    Can we use RAND’s voluntary withdrawal of the L.A. incidence of crime in the vicinity of dispensaries to discredit them? They publicly stated that their methodology in that study sucked, why should anyone believe that their methodology doesn’t suck in their other studies? I’d have already used this tactic but I just haven’t been able to articulate the concept clearly. Suggestions are very welcome.
    Well they say that everyone in Mendocino County is growing pot.
    Marijuana found at Mendocino prosecutor’s home

  14. Rita says:

    Marijuana is 75% of the drug war — it’s the other drugs that are the “sideshow.” That’s why the feds won’t legalize it without a fight, because even if they could maintain a war mentality against a mere 5 million people, at least half of current warriors would have to get real jobs.

  15. kaptinemo says:

    The Democratic Party shills have deployed in full force!

    I’ve been on several ‘progressive’ news sites all morning, and it’s obvious the Dems are engaged in damage control, with the negative press in the Alternate Media that Obama’s been getting for his unbelievably sophomoric responses to the Cartagena Summit’s demand for a legalization debate and why he’s unleashing his goons on the dispensaries.

    There’s been a recent spike in comments from obvious DLC shills saying that, never mind that Obama is losing a significant portion of his base by effing it over after so many worked so hard for him last time, oh no, no, never mind that, THE ROMNEY’S COMING, THE ROMNEY’S COMING, AAAAAAAAH! VOTE FOR OBAMA AGAIN TO SAVE US FROM THE ROMNEYYYYYYYY!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    I’ve left a few responses on those sites letting them know what I think of such bald-faced and pathetic attempts to screw the cannabists amongst his base over some more. Have fun.

  16. darkcycle says:

    I had a go, but I think you scared him off.

    • kaptinemo says:

      Well, in this case, when you shine a light on the ideological roaches, they tend to scatter. I’ve been expecting for this tactic, and I’ve got my rhetorical roach spray primed and ready.

      The shills really, truly do not understand that we’ve been under the gun so long that we’ve acquired razor-sharp mental edges. We had to. No choice. “Think of it as evolution in action.” We had to evolve into something smarter, faster and more maneuverable, mentally, than our resource-rich but ponderously slow, walnut-brained dinosaur adversaries. And it shows in the dialogues encountered at places like Pete’s Couch.

      But the shills keep thinking that the Cheech and Chong, dull-witted, slow speaking, goofy eyed, slang-slinging, easily fooled stoner stereotypes they have about cannabists are true. And I just love rubbing their faces in their own misconceptions until they’re raw and bleeding.

      • claygooding says:

        When Cheech took on 2 Ivy league graduates at Jeopardy,Anderson was amazed and could not believe that Cheech had ever smoked marijuana and as he put it,,Cheech smoked us,,,

        I just love to debate college guys,,my colloquial grammar and backwoods sense of humor is honed to the edge of a baseball bat.

      • darkcycle says:

        Ya know, Kap, I’m beginning to think that the pols will need to be afraid of us before things are going to move our way. If, just once, we could vote as a block, like the gun rights folks or the pro-lifers, I would be willing to bet this would be over by the next election cycle.
        Or, if we stink loud enough, and repeatedly enough, in enough places and Barry loses, we might just get their undivided attention. Obama needs to lose this one and the press needs to credit (or even acknowledge) the role drug reform advocates played. I think at that point, they can’t afford to kick us to the curb anymore.

        • kaptinemo says:

          This is something I keep saying: cannabists comprise the single largest voting bloc in America. We cross almost every demographic there is. Very, very few subgroups are not contained within the principal mass.

          Imagine. Imagine for a moment if it were possible to get reform organizations to agree to bury their (largely ego driven ) hatchets and work for a unified front in a national election.

          Imagine…a massive national voter registration effort being undertaken by cannabists. One that would very, very quickly get the notice of the political structure and the traditional media.

          Of course, there’d be the usual automatic ‘Titter Factor’ engaged…but recall what happened as Prop19 looked like it was something to be taken seriously; the snickering, deprecating jokes tapered off as the media realized it might be alienating a much larger portion of their ‘market’ than they thought. The same would happen again. Pols would see that we mean business, and won’t take their crap anymore. They’ll start to hedge their bets. And that alone will be enough to change perceptions.

          Someone told me once that respect is 51% fear, 49% admiration. We don’t need or want the pol’s freakin’ admiration. If the pols see that we really do mean business, the jokes would stop and their sweating bullets would begin.

        • darkcycle says:

          Cats. We’re talking about herding cats. If only just once.

        • primus says:

          The key is to get the women onside. Once they correctly perceive that it is the drug war, not the drugs which is the greater danger to their babies, then they will block vote and it will be over in a week. That’s how they roll.

        • Peter says:

          its always been about divide and conquor for the prohibs, usually along racial lines. the drug war has always been waged against the disenfranchised, african americans through drug felony convictions, students through residency laws, hispanics through immigration status, the poor through id requirements. the focus ted nugent has brought to the nra in recent weeks shows how they present a unified homogenous block of white christian conservatives and thus wield political power beyond their minority status. they are less like unheardable cats and can be whipped into line with the right dogwhistles from their masters in the corporations of america.
          i have now come to agree that a resounding defeat for obama with the clear defection of much of liberal america is the only thing that will get their attention in 2016.

      • Duncan20903 says:


        Cheech Marin & Tommy Chong are both multi-millionaires with successful careers that span more than 4 decades in a highly cut throat industry in which almost everyone who attempts to participate fails, and fails miserably. Would anyone care to speculate how many wannabe comics fold up the tents and get a job in a cubicle every year?

        You should be so lucky as to be in half the physical shape of Mr. Chong or have 1/10 of his net worth when you’re almost 74 years old.

  17. Metabaron says:

    Even If cannabis regulation had only a little impact, you have to start with sonmething.

  18. ezrydn says:

    They thunk till they sunk!

  19. Servetus says:

    We already know that legalizing marijuana will reduce alcohol consumption because available evidence exists to indicate that a large percentage of people use medical marijuana to help offset excessive drinking. If a person can realize an equivalent high with a little marijuana and less alcohol, then they can drink less alcohol.

    It’s this preference for a specific mental plateau, an optimum level of highness, that most prohibitionists don’t bother to consider or understand. A person doesn’t smoke marijuana until it puts them to sleep, unless it’s intended as a medical sleep aid. People typically don’t drink until they black out. These behaviors are not fun; meaning they aren’t recreational. Moderate and safe use is what makes a drug recreational.

    Since marijuana can be more readily available than alcohol, especially for teenagers, a trend toward equilibrium in the use of the two drugs would have occurred long ago. Any predicted sharp rise in marijuana use under legalization will be moderated by this effect. Based on similar scenarios in Europe, cannabis quasi-legalization tends to reduce marijuana use, not increase it, possibly due to the elimination of the exciting and glamorous forbidden-fruit effect that prohibition provides.

  20. Nunavut Tripper says:

    I always get a chuckle out of the prohibs argument that legalization would increase the problem users dramatically.
    There may be a few fence sitters that would try cannabis if it became legal but they aren’t likely to become chronic stoners. From my experience in Ontario Canada the market for weed has been saturated for years. The pricing has dropped over the last ten years and I often have friends gift me small amounts just to be friendly.
    I’d like to know where this huge influx of drug abusers would come from if weed were any easier to get.

    • allan says:

      I worked for 6 years for a fella named Bill Conde (google hemp conde) in his redwood lumber yard. I was yard guy and did deliveries driving a 20′ flatbed w/ ganja leaves all over the cab and the motto “yes, trees are renewable, but hemp is sustainable.”

      In 6 years I never had to buy pot… green tips were the norm, good Orgone homegrown. And w/ all those damn hippies and hempies dropping in for HempFests and/or politicking, there just wasn’t a shortage of herb. Which is the way it’s meant to be. That’s what that red-haired honkie fella was doing in China w/ his 2 lbs of kind bud 3,000 years ago.

      The herb is meant to be shared. And of course therein lies one of its most real threats to the Mammonites..

    • darkcycle says:

      Exactly. I have…ahem…aquaintances… who have unsold bud from last Summer. Good bud. Real good bud. But they’re looking to Indiana, Missouri or Illinois for relief. And so far that relief ISN’T coming. They don’t need it any more than we do out here.

  21. Francis says:

    “It is natural to assume that marijuana legalization would reduce black market violence, raise billions in tax revenue, and provide adults with a legal alternative to alcohol that’s safer by every objective measure, but it is equally likely that legalization would cause the fabric of space-time to fold in on itself, creating a singularity that would destroy the known universe and replace it with one where humans are enslaved by giant Norwich Terriers.”

  22. MaineGeezer says:

    We do have an indication of what will happen to alcohol sales: they will most likely go down. It’s been known for over 40 years. The 1972 book “Licit and Illicit Drugs” by Edward M. Brecher has a chapter devoted to the topic.

  23. Rita says:

    Four children are trapped in a burning house. The firefighters can only rescue 3 of them, so why bother, right? Let it burn!

    What Kilmer is saying is that, even if the warriors are forced to stop destroying the lives of pot smokers, they’re going to keep right on destroying the lives of other drug users, so we might as well let them continue top destroy the lives of pot smokers. Geez, where’s the Nobel Peace Prize?

    • Duncan20903 says:

      We have to keep pot illegal because otherwise the criminals would get into REAL mischief.

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