Regulation is only as hard as you make it

Legalizing marijuana is hard. Regulating a pot industry is even harder. by Mike Konczal in the Washington Post.

It’s hard to slog through all the hand-wringing in this article — fears about making the wrong decisions in regulating marijuana, as though legalization involved suspending a massive anvil above the population and you only had one opportunity to get the suspension system correct.

But the fact is, of all the substances or activities that you might have government regulate, marijuana is one of the least scary. It’s also one of the hardest to contain.

Just legalize it. Slap a few regulations to mostly keep it away from kids and to insure that commercially sold marijuana isn’t moldy and isn’t grown in ecologically damaging ways, and see what happens. Wait until the spike from the novelty wears off and then tweak as needed.

But of course that won’t happen. They’re going to argue and argue over what will ultimately be irrelevant: how to use regulation to prevent addiction (hint: that’s not one of the powers of regulation).

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33 Responses to Regulation is only as hard as you make it

  1. N.T. Greene says:

    It is, however, one of the powers of proper education pertaining to drugs in general.

    …however, this cannot be achieved through lies and exaggerations.

    It’s why I’m a big fan of Erowid.

  2. strayan says:

    “The idea is to prevent the retail industry from becoming so large that they have enough wealth and power to roll over anyone trying to enforce, expand or update the public-health-focused rules that are designed to protect the public’s health and safety,” says Roger Roffman, a University of Washington professor and author of the forthcoming book “Marijuana Nation.”

    The cannabis industry went global decades ago. We have Mexican cartel presence in bloody Australia now. I do not for the life of me understand where these people find the energy to be worried about this spectre of ‘big bud’ when you’ve got drug cartels rolling their way across Mexico leaving thousands of mutilated corpses in their wake.

    Do these people need to have their legs hacked off and genitals dipped in acid before they start to worry about what they should actually be worried about!?

  3. claygooding says:

    What we are seeing is the government’s efforts to keep pot so regulated and scary that only indoor grows are allowed. I expect the feds to bust any outdoor commercial grow.
    By keeping marijuana production indoors they accomplish two things,,they keep hemp production banned and production costs high enough to insure a black market because then they can claim legalizing drugs doesn’t effect the black market.
    That is how I see it Vern.

  4. kaptinemo says:

    The bit about ‘problem (cannabis) users’ wanting to cut back or stop and not being able to was especially rich. Like the scary stories older kids tell younger ones to frighten them.

    We don’t have such tender concerns for alcoholics; juicers can buy all they want in most States and drink themselves to death any day of the year, and the State where they bought the stuff isn’t all that concerned. Given the lack of LD-50 for cannabis, no fatal dose known, you’d think they’d be happy…if health of the citizens were the real concern, here. Which it is most decidedly not.

    I’d sooner be worried about being crushed by flying pigs making landings while I am running balls-out to escape the boogeyman before I’d worry about (chimerical) ‘problem’ cannabis users. Real angels-dancing-on-heads-of-pins stuff. And the Washington State taxpayers shelled out their hard-earned moolah for this? In these hard times?

    The late Senator Proxmire used to give out Golden Fleece Awards to government agencies running wasteful programs. The practice should be revived, and I have a perfect recipient in mind.

  5. Preventing addiction is a problem if the standard NIDA/ONDCP reefer madness models of substance abuse are used to think with.

    Now, lets think with some sane perspective on the issue. The addiction potential of marijuana approximates caffeine or coffee. In my years of counseling people with substance abuse problems, working in half-way houses, and generally just living through the 1960’s, I think I have run across one person whom I could have considered having a problem with addiction to marijuana over the last 40 years. Most other problems I saw related to societal issues, other life issues, and the war on drugs itself. Trying to prevent addiction to marijuana is a no brainer.

    Making sure that people understand how horribly complicated your job is sounds like a good way to add value and worth to ones job though, seeing as how such tough and complicated decision making is required. Should be good for a salary hike next year. Other than that, this guy needs to get a grip.

    The only real problem is how these guys can hide some money and profit from it just like the good old drug war does now. Old habits die hard.

    • claygooding says:

      Please explain to me in layman terms what harm is caused if a person becomes addicted to legal marijuana,,it could be easily found or grown by most addicts,,it is still non-toxic no matter how often or much you use and the withdrawel side effects are not life threatening when/if the addict runs out.
      So what fucking difference does it make if I am addicted to marijuana?

      • lombar says:

        “So what fucking difference does it make if I am addicted to marijuana?”

        Then you probably won’t be addicted to things that kill you. Puritans approve only of drugs that punish their users.

      • Personally, I don’t think there is such an animal as addiction to pot. Dependent behavior using it maybe, but not addiction.

        Don’t think it matters at all if you don’t Clay.

        • claygooding says:

          That was my impression of what I would ask Kev-Kev,,I got so into it I was frothing at the mouth while typing the last two letters,,it would have been lead off picture on every anti-pot article for a month and Kev would have been ecstatic.

  6. Francis says:

    They’re going to argue and argue over what will ultimately be irrelevant: how to use regulation to prevent addiction (hint: that’s not one of the powers of regulation).

    Oh, I don’t know, Pete. What about a healthy subsidy for the cannabis industry combined with a well-funded education campaign to increase public awareness regarding cannabis’ role as a safer alternative to deadly, addiction-promoting drugs like alcohol and prescription painkillers as well as its potential for use in treating those addictions? That might work. Or is that not what Kleiman and crew have in mind?

  7. kaptinemo says:

    “The only real problem is how these guys can hide some money and profit from it just like the good old drug war does now. Old habits die hard.”

    What Kleiman was proposing in his bid to ‘help’ the (fictional) ‘problem users’ was to maintain the price artificially high…which is still the aim of prohibition, anyway. ‘Old wine in new wineskins’ and all that. So the dodge remains in place, and the racket is intact, ensuring black market activity, which defeats the aim of re-legalization entirely.

    In France in the early days of the Industrial Revolution, in protest at the ever-worsening conditions the workers were being subjected to, they’d often kick off their shoes (sabot in French) into the workings of the machinery to bollocks it.

    If you want to commit sabotage on the nascent re-legalization of herb in this country, what better way than to burrow into its’ core machinery while it is being installed and hurl your prohibitionist shoes into it?

  8. claygooding says:

    Kevin Sabet of SAM is worried that more people will become addicted to marijuana,,keeping in mind that Sabet is a doctor in the addiction field isn’t that cutting his own throat?
    How generous can we ask a feller to be?

    • darkcycle says:

      He may have a PhD in addiction sciences, but he’s not an “addiction doctor”. Nope, he’s a policy apparatchik and Government service-leach. He only got that degree for the credibility it lends. I’d be willing to bet he’s never set foot inside a rehab (outside of whatever required time he put in for that fleece).

      • claygooding says:

        I was offering to dull his knife dark,,I think he used one of those high dollar printers at the ONDCP and made his own PHD.

  9. primus says:

    How much of this is due to control issues? Politicians and bureaucrats are control freaks. By putting in place stringent rules to follow, they retain their illusion that they have control over the market. In the final analysis, prohibition at its heart is about control, and they are loath to relinquish it. When I was a sprat, alcohol was very closely regulated, for the same reason. Bars had separate areas for ‘gentlemen’ and ‘ladies and escorts’, there were no off sales, if you wanted to move from one table to another you were not allowed to carry your drink with you, only the barmaid could move it, liquor stores were government owned and only opened certain hours on certain days, the customer was not allowed to see the product, merely a list, you wrote your order on a slip of paper and gave it to the clerk who retrieved the product from a back room. Over the past 40 years, the system evolved to where all those rules have gone by the wayside. I believe it will be similar with cannabis relegalisation; the rules will be extremely strict at first, relaxing gradually over time as the sky does not, in fact, fall.

  10. Servetus says:

    Mark Kleiman has every reason to make regulation hard.

    Product costing is a twenty-minute process, if the right person is doing it. Regulations can be quickly formulated by imitating successful models like those found in the Netherlands, where the head narcotics official says marijuana is not a problem. It’s not rocket science.

    But Kleiman and Company need to justify the ~$290/hour they’re getting from Washington State. So they’re going to invent obstacles to be overcome, and nitpick over every little detail. They will agonize over pseudo-moral issues, and believe that DEA certified Voodoo priests must bless every marijuana bush by sacrificing a chicken. Eventually, once the money is used up, these and other bizarre acts may or may not produce a viable framework for intrastate marijuana commerce.

    • claygooding says:

      I think Klieman is there to make sure it never gets off the ground and to take down Washington’s MMJ program if he can.

    • darkcycle says:

      I’m only moving ahead with my business plans under the assumption it will change, and very rapidly, too. The picture the State is getting from Kleiman is so distorted, and the black market here is so robust, that the regs and taxes they propose will be scrapped as unworkable in short order.
      Honestly, rather than eliminate the Black/Grey market, Kleiman’s plans look like an effort to preserve it.
      Back East during prohibition I, in Chicago, one of the ways the Mob bosses would push out independents was to announce to the unlucky speakeasy owner that he was going to take on a “partner”. That partner was, of course, the Mob’s man. This “partner” would divert some of the profits to the organization, leaving only enough to keep the poor guy from going out of business. M Maternal Grandfather owned one of those, and when he politely declined, his establishment burned in a mysterious fire.
      Kleiman has made that “partner” the State.

  11. N.T. Greene says:

    I still think SAM is a hi-larious acronym for that organization, as it has a funny alternate:

    Same Approach to Marijuana

    Heck, it is one letter short of “same”. Who the heck is running that place and thought that was a good idea? Did the interns not expect the other side to pick up on the glaringly obvious?

  12. DonDig says:

    You’ve laid out the perfect prescription, Pete. And I also doubt they will ‘get it.’
    Regulation is possible to some degree, one of those relatively clear examples of less is more. We will never get it ‘right’ once and for all. Everything changes continually, and that is one of the only constants in life. Adapt or flounder. Control is not possible. It is time to go forward.
    Control over the mid-east, the western world, this country, our state, city, household, even control over the weeds in the grass in the back yard may be a seductive illusion for some, but such control is only infinitesimally likely to become a reality for more than a few milliseconds.
    Both paralysis and progress need modification as time goes on. We’ve had decades of paralysis… boring. Progress is thrilling, let’s try not to suffocate it.

  13. Jean Valjean says:

    “Barack Obama ‘humbled’ by visit to Nelson Mandela’s Robben Island jail – video”

    Stunning disconnect here…the air of quasi-religious reverence for Mandela’s time in prison needs to be contrasted with Obama’s denial about the racism of drug policies he supports… I wonder if it occurred to him as he stood in that jail cell that he could have been spending many years in one just like it for his own involvement with illegal drugs?

    • allan says:

      jean, that’s the theme and question that needs to be asked repeatedly, often and everywhere. Were I a thrower-of-things when I get mad, my TV would have died when I saw him in SA talking about Mandela. How many Mandelas has the drug war created? How many Steven Bikos? (musical interlude: ) Peter McWlliams’ and ALL the other drug war caused deaths continue to stain the hands of any President until he or she ends this campaign of war on liberty and American homes (and I mean American as in from the Arctic Circle to the tip of Tierra del Fuego).

      • Jean Valjean says:

        maybe if they’d shut the door and left him for an hour he might have had a glimmer of self-awareness?

      • claygooding says:

        Due to changing times and events opportunities to shoot arrows at our drug policy present themselves in other subjects besides drug studies and interviews with paid snake oil salesman.
        I have been hitting the articles about Deena and her crucifixion because she said the N word 26 or 27 years ago.

        “” America crucifies a woman for saying “nigger” 27 years ago and allows a legislated prohibition to stand that was only voted in because “Smoking marijuana makes negros think they are as good as whites” and “When white women smoke marijuana they mate with blacks”.. It is in our congressional records and a part of our proud history..””

        I just have to swing every chance I get,,someday’s we hit a homerun on someone.

  14. crut says:

    OT: Had a great drunken conversation with a dyed in the wool prohibitionist mindset yesterday evening. Solved the problems of the world on my back patio!

    It was a lot of personal fun to let him talk his way into corners. It was almost effortless. Especially gratifying was when I posed to him the question of if the drug war (little d, little w) was working (Him: “It is a success!”). To give him credit, he’s a smart man, a high-school math teacher in fact, but just incomprehensibly ignorant. Dropping the “5% of population, 25% of incarcerated population” stat on him was satisfyingly enough alone to topple his house of cards. It wasn’t much of a surprise to hear him admit that he’s “never done drugs” (while sucking down his beer and another shot of cupcake vodka). And OMG, the deflections! Nearly every time when I was getting to a point that he didn’t want to hear, it’s time for him to try and talk over me as if hearing the truth might cause him physical pain. Obviously he’s watching Bill O’Reilly too much.

    Can we please speed up the 300MPH legalization freight train?

    • primus says:

      Someone so closed-minded should NEVER be allowed to teach impressionable young people.

  15. Fallibilist says:

    Peter Guither,

    I don’t think you’ve ever hit the nail on the head as squarely as in this deceptively simple take-down of a deceptively-complicated article.

    This article was frustrating because the author attempts to predict every possible permutation of legalization and every possible reaction–unintended consequences and policy interactions, semi-compliance and scofflaws, etc.–and then to make a physics-style calculation.

    This sort of “precision” is unattainable to achieve accurately. You simply can’t predict human behavior well enough a priori to make a perfect system inside a snow-globe.

    There is no substitute for experimentation. Make a few common-sense rules that are easy to understand and comply with. My favorite: let’s do some product-labeling!

    Anyway, I’m running the risk of being overly verbose, just like that article.

    Peter, thanks again for pointing out the Emperor has no clothes. Your column was like a breath of fresh air.

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