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.
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.