Mark Kleiman has an extensive piece in Washington Monthly: How Not to Make a Hash Out of Cannabis Legalization: Leaving it to the states is a recipe for disaster.
As usual, with Mark, it’s a mix of some very good material and some unsupported nonsense that is just there to support his personal nanny-state preferences for public policy.
First, the good.
The undeniable gains from legalization consist mostly of getting rid of the damage done by prohibition. (Indeed, as E. J. Dionne and William Galston have pointed out, polling suggests that support for legalization is driven more by discontent with prohibition than by enthusiasm for pot.) Right now, Americans spend about $35 billion a year on illegal cannabis. That money goes untaxed; the people working in the industry arenâ€™t gaining legitimate job experience or getting Social Security credit, and some of them spend time behind bars and wind up with felony criminal records. About 650,000 users a year get arrested for possession, something much more likely to happen to a black user than a white one.
We also spend about $1 billion annually in public money keeping roughly 40,000 growers and dealers behind bars at any one time. Thatâ€™s a small chunk of the incarceration problem, but it represents a lot of money and a lot of suffering. The enforcement effort, including the use of â€œdynamic entryâ€ raids, imposes additional costs in money, liberty, police-community conflict, and, occasionally, lives. Cannabis dealing and enforcement donâ€™t contribute much to drug-related violence in the United States, but they make up a noticeable part of Mexicoâ€™s problems.
Another gain from legalization would be to move the millions of Americans whose crimes begin and end with using illegal cannabis from the wrong side of the law to the right one, bringing an array of benefits to them and their communities in the form of a healthier relationship with the legal and political systems. Current cannabis users, and the millions of others who might choose to start using cannabis if the drug became legal, would also enjoy an increase in personal liberty and be able to pursue, without the fear of legal consequences, what is for most of them a harmless source of pleasure, comfort, relaxation, sociability, healing, creativity, or inspiration. For those people, legalization would also bring with it all the ordinary gains consumers derive from open competition: lower prices, easier access, and a wider range of available products and means of administration, held to quality standards the illicit market canâ€™t enforce.
And he goes on to also mention public revenue from legalization and so forth. This is a pretty outstanding list of valuable benefits that would come from legalization and kudos to Mark for presenting them so clearly. This is good stuff.
Where we first get into his personal bias wheelhouse is in the issue of states leading the way.
The state-by-state approach has generated some happy talk from both advocates and some neutral observers; Justice Louis Brandeisâ€™s praise for states as the â€œlaboratories of democracyâ€ has been widely quoted. [â€¦]
But letting legalization unfold state by state, with the federal government a mostly helpless bystander, risks creating a monstrosity; Dr. Frankenstein also had a laboratory.
Really? That’s where you decided to go with the laboratories of democracy? Dr. Frankenstein? As I tweeted earlier today, “What a bizarre and juvenile statement.”
It’s like saying “Illinois is considering building a chemical plant? Think of the risks; my son had a chemistry set and he practically blew up the garage.”
Yes, Dr. Frankenstein had a laboratory. How does that conceivably compare to the extensively state-regulated marijuana businesses we’ve seen in every single state that has legalized medical or recreational marijuana? Did Frankenstein have building inspectors, a medical review board, or zoning regulations to deal with?
Are there potential risks with the state model? Certainly. That’s part of any research. But conjuring up monsters isn’t an appropriate way to lead a discussion on it.
As more and more states begin to legalize marijuana over the next few years, the cannabis industry will begin to get richerâ€”and that means it will start to wield considerably more political power, not only over the states but over national policy, too.
Thatâ€™s how we could get locked into a bad system in which the primary downside of legalizing potâ€”increased drug abuse, especially by minorsâ€”will be greater than it needs to be, and the benefits, including tax revenues, smaller than they could be.
Sure. It could happen. Look, I’d be fine with a non-profit system, or a state-run marijuana store, or any other model as long as it provides legal access to a good variety of marijuana products for consenting adults.
But the federal government, quite frankly, has to really earn a lot in order to have any credibility in wanting to oversee marijuana legalization.
Legalization isn’t happening at the state level because states didn’t want the federal government to do it. Legalization is happening at the state level because there was no other choice. The federal government was simply not doing its job, and instead was stonewalling to try to prevent the necessary systems from being developed, even going so far as to systematically lie to the public and to block research.
Now that, through enormous work and sacrifice by ordinary people, legalization appears to be inevitable, Mark’s suggestion that “We can do better than that, but only if Congress takes action-and soon” in order for the federal government to control how legalization occurs, seems a bit late.
To be blunt, I say, “fuck the federal government.” Yes, I’d love to have the federal government step in and do it right and come up with a good national legalization approach, but they’re not to be trusted. They’ve clearly shown they are unwilling to do what’s necessary or right when it comes to drug policy unless they are dragged there by the people, the states, or the courts (and the courts haven’t been very willing to go up against the feds in drug policy either, so that leaves it to the people and the states).
And while it’s nice to have Kleiman and the other Academics of Drug Policy supporting some kind of legalization publicly now, as a group they haven’t really been an active part of the solution either. Transform, over in the UK, was putting out After the War on Drugs: Blueprint for Regulation, whereas our own academics at RAND were saying:
Nor do we explore the merits and demerits of legalizing drugs, even though legalization is perhaps the most prominent and hotly debated topic in drug policy. Our analysis takes current policy as its starting point, and the idea of repealing the nationâ€™s drug laws has no serious support within either the Democratic or Republican party. Moreover, because legalization is untested, any prediction of its effects would be highly speculative.
More recently, Transform put out How to Regulate Cannabis: A Practical Guide while our academics published a book pointing out the uncertainties of things we don’t know.
And of course, Mark harps on one of his big points — his concern with commercialization.
Whatâ€™s needed is federal legislation requiring states that legalize cannabis to structure their pot markets such that they wonâ€™t get captured by commercial interests.
What he claims bothers him the most about commercialization of marijuana distribution is a very questionable assumption:
Cannabis consumption, like alcohol consumption, follows the so-called 80/20 rule (sometimes called â€œParetoâ€™s Lawâ€): 20 percent of the users account for 80 percent of the volume. So from the perspective of cannabis vendors, drug abuse isnâ€™t the problem; itâ€™s the target demographic. Since we can expect the legal cannabis industry to be financially dependent on dependent consumers, we can also expect that the industryâ€™s marketing practices and lobbying agenda will be dedicated to creating and sustaining problem drug use patterns.
There are a number of problems with this. First, Pareto’s Law is a general approach to looking at business trends, and it doesn’t mean that 80% of all marijuana sales will be part of problematic use, despite the inference often given by Mark, et al.
But the thing that really gets me is the point, made over and over again by Mark (and picked up by the “Big Marijuana” idiots) that commercial businesses will make their profits by marketing to problematic users and by marketing to create problematic users.
I really don’t see the evidence to support this.
When I marketed theatre, you know the one group I didn’t spend much money or effort attempting to sway? Theatre-goers. They were my captive audience – all I had to do is announce what I was doing and they would come.
Marketing is primarily about brand awareness, brand loyalty, and, in some cases, introducing the benefits of a product to new customers. It’s not about feeding or growing dependencies. That happens separate from marketing.
Sure, if marketing causes an increase in the overall number of users, and you assume that the same percentage of those new users will become dependent as in the original class, then marketing could lead to dependency indirectly. But that assumption is flat-out contradicted by evidence and common sense, since prohibition laws, to the extent that they deter at all, are more likely to deter casual non-problematic use than problematic use.
I know that it’s popular to claim that marketing is used to cause dependency, but there’s really very little evidence to support that claim.
Let’s take a look at alcohol — one of the areas that the “Big Marijuana” folks are particularly fond of using as a model for why we should be concerned about commercial advertising of marijuana products.
According to the “10th Special Report to the U.S. Congress on Alcohol and Health, Highlights from Current Research” from the Secretary of Health and Human Services.
In general, experimental studies based in laboratory settings provide little consistent evidence that alcohol advertising influences peopleâ€™s drinking behaviors or beliefs about alcohol and its effects (Kohn and Smart 1984; Kohn et al. 1984; Lipsitz 1993; Slater et al. 1997; Sobell et al. 1986). In addition, econometric studies of market data have produced mixed results, with most showing no significant relationship between advertising and overall consumption levels (Fisher and Cook 1995; Gius 1996; Goel and Morey 1995; Nelson and Moran 1995).
This really does suggest that it’s more about brand advertising than “drink alcohol to excess” advertising. Those who have a drinking problem don’t need to be told by women in bikinis to drink.
Just as with my theatre patrons, even though the regulars may have provided me with 80% of my ticket sales, the bulk of my marketing efforts always went after the ones that wouldn’t be coming without me convincing them. With beer, it’s about convincing you to buy Budweiser instead of Miller. With pot, it’ll first be about informing you that you can buy it and where, then it’ll be about developing brand loyalty (why you should buy from this store instead of another one, or this strain instead of another one…) and, if we’re lucky, there will be an additional advertising thrust to convince people to consume pot instead of alcohol (substitution advertising). But there’s no effective marketing strategy to go after or create dependencies, even if those decencies end up profiting the business.
All this is just a part of the “commercial business is always bad” meme. Again, if you want to promote a non-profit or government model, fine. Hey, how about that state laboratories thing? Convince a state to legalize with a non-profit or state-run approach. We’ll see how it works.
I remember the state-operated liquor store approach from when I lived in Iowa. It had its pros and cons. One of the pros was one year when there was a world-wide shortage of a particular spirit — but not in Iowa, because as a state they had such huge buying power that they were able to get their supply when commercial liquor distributors could not. Hmmm, probably not an argument that helps Mark, is it?
Mark Kleiman seems so convinced that without extremely heavy-handed interference by government, there will be unacceptable levels of individuals whose lives are ruined by pot. It’s just not clear that that’s true.
A monster of completely unknown danger is not being stitched together in dark laboratory by Dr. Frankenstein only to be released to a cruel and intolerant world.
We’re legalizing cannabis.
the idea that pot has never been legal before so we can’t be certain what will happen if the people are freed just this little bit, is very obtuse for college professor. almost every person that wants cannabis can get it right now. even in prison. the main effect of legalization will be to free up the cops to fight real crimes.
Note that in the third para of the first quote, he mentions the ‘millions who might try it once it’s legal’ line of bull. Though those three paragraphs do, indeed contain some value, they also contain dross like that.
And he fails to mention: those who will only try it once its legal just might not ever try alcohol or won’t do alcohol (or as much) again and who won’t rely on narcotic and anti-anxiety meds as well once they try pot. Maybe someone won’t try suicide or deep depression as well. Maybe trying marijuana might make some couple not try divorce.
There is a huge news story about China threatening to have America pay back all of its debt in the form of gold, if we don’t back down on the Ukraine. If this is so, I think we should tell the Chinese authorities that klieman and the other prohibs are the ones with all the gold and give them their addresses . . . it’s at least worth a try.
WV, that’s laughable absurdity. Treasury notes don’t come with a call, nor do the holders have the option of being paid in anything except U.S. currency. The Chinese just don’t have those options. They could sell their bonds on the open market but they’re smart enough to know that would be cutting off their collective nose to spite their collective face. If they tank our economy their economy will suffer a severe body blow. They can demand anything that they can imagine, it doesn’t mean that they’re going to get it.
Aside from that were they wanting to be paid with precious metal they’d much more likely demand payment in copper and/or silver. Gold is way over rated and over priced.
I’ve been hearing this same bull crap since before the turn of the century. It’s pure fiction, and not even close to believable. Before the Chinese were turned into the bogeyman the role was played by the Japanese. So where are the Japanese nowadays?
I never claimed to believe this story (‘If this is so’). Because I first heard of it from a Spanish Newspaper, I took it with a grain of salt like I do with everything I read. But America is mostly powerless now after a long losing war and economic hardships, so China only needs to make shoes and software to keep us at bay . . . Yes, we shouldn’t have allowed Matthew Perry to threaten war with Japan in the name of trade, but I do think what they did in Nanking gave them the title of bogeymen, just as we deserved that title from time to time. But I do know that when Germany and England went at it during the teens, America gained much hegemony and now America is in the slow process of defeat, but not nearly as recognizable . . . hegemony seems to belong or will belong to China and our tennis shoes and t-shirts help them with that. And I agree, ‘gold is worthless’. Not a whole lot of computer chips come from gold, which explains why China wants in on the future of Afghanistan as did Persia, Alexander, England, Russia, Pakistan . . .
At this point, I am beginning to think of Kleiman as something of a grifter. He’s a policy guy. That means as long as there is discussion and uncertainty, he is the go-to guy for hypotheticals. But…As soon as there is settled policy, he has to go find another horse to beat. And all the horses out there are already being beaten by their OWN policy wonks. Soon as soon as it’s done, Kleiman goes right back to being just another academic without a peanut gallery full of sycophants. I’m pretty sure not being called once a week for interviews would be completely intolerable to Marky-Mark.
How the heck does he keep the birds from nesting in his beard?
Oh wait a second, I have no basis for believing that he doesn’t have a flock of birds living there. Never mind.
There is no historical precedent for harm from a population of people using cannabis. It has been used for thousands of years. What facts precede this thinking? ANSWER: none.
Black men having sex with white women after smoking marijuana is not a fact from a local study on the effects of cannabis.
So, when Governor Brown of California, or Mark Kleiman, or Kevin Sabet start ringing the bells of alarm about the danger’s of marijuana realize that we are operating from a paradigm engineered out of racist hated that has no basis in anything but fear generated by lies. Mark Kleiman is an idiot masquerading as a scholar, to fill his pockets with money and esteem. Sending everyone looking down blind alleys that were generated by master liars is not my idea of objective logic. Mark is just another fear monger in sheeps clothing.
Totally agree TC, but racism is only one of the tools of Fascism they use. It all ends up as profits as the reason to prohibit cannabis. Not from cannabis. Prohibition profits treating the problem even if it doesn’t exist. Profits from the synthetic alternatives. Profits from tree lumber or chemical cotton or even the US Steel industry. Another protein source and alternative to factory farms and fisheries with the Omega efa’s in the Hemp Oil. Monsanto pesticides and herbicides aren’t required for Hemp. More cellulose and anyone can grow it about anywhere and cash it in like pop bottles.
Removing a large deterrent, the Poor. Build houses for the homeless and there goes another deterrent to raising the wages so a family can actually live on it. Fords car from the ground up probably doesn’t sit well with the Crude Oil plastics and gasoline. As it didn’t the first time home made tractor fuel had to go with the 18th amendment. Over and over doing the same old shit and people just want to believe it can’t happen again and certainly not here.
Everyday a fascist sticks his pointy little head into the TV and states clearly what is best for the people. Making the rich, richer and the military bigger. Including the subsidiary Police and Prison Industrial Complex.
Since Clinton/Bush NAFTA/GATT outsourcing and prison slave labor, scabs with or without documents and the rising unemployment. Creating a large labor pool or lake to fish for cheaper labor. Third World Yuppies of the New Weird Odor. Another banana republic by the only bipartisan group in DC. The NEOCON’s.
Same anti-war, Daley Democrats in Chicago. Same Joe Berdon, anti cannabis ravings. Al Obama and the Klintoon agenda, the Dixiekrats with Daddy War Bush’s inherited fascism. Nixon, Ford, Rayguns with Cheney and Rumsfeld. All signing into the original Kristol hippie haters. Think tank War Fabrication, Coup’s and general mayhem. Counter Counterculture. For profits.
Numbers are surrogate citizens forming a non-tangible “public” to control. Like the hospitals becoming so efficient they may not need real patients in the future, without losing a single job or drug sales. Just make shit up and treat it. Put all preventions and cures on the shelf or underground. Profits govern Science and are mostly the Mother of Inventions. Including much of the Cannabis Culture. Difference is we provide for the people’s interest and need while Neocons provide for themselves treating the suffering they create.
Bottom line is, Cannabis in the hands of the people. Take profits from the status quo. Not much slowing it down when the opposition are Appeasers and Compromisers and devout followers. All we got is Science and Truth. If enough people are confronted their guilt might overcome the Beast of DC Wall St. Cut off its food not buying from China. Divert as much as possible to local Hemp factories and Dispensaries. Only if we raise the bar and eliminate it completely from the CSA. Anything less is still Prohibition profits and Big Pharma, Big Ag and the Weird Trade Orchestration compition free zone. We the people stay outlaws.
Yes, racism and sexism and hair-ism and all the silly status symbols and groups fake Americans sell. Jerking their MalWart chinese plastic flags. Made of fossil fools crude oil from Iraq. By kids in sweatshops taking American jobs. Jerking them at out of work kids signing up to get shot at by bullets bought by the same flag jerkers. Made by Union labor in US factories. Spraying Monsanto’s new and hopefully improved agent orange lite throughout the bible belt on the cotton crops. Not used on Hemp. Aborting more babies than RvW while Pat’s Fortune 700 Club’s OpRescuans are shooting doctors in church, all for Geeeeeeeezus. The mud people will be molded into the image of their money god, as they wish.
Mark Kleiman is a scholar taught with censored school books. Same as Medical School. Might as well be Home schooled in Texas. Writing policy based on hobgoblins and profiteers dire predictions if we don’t buy his product, er policy. Showing in living color or pasty white the hypocrisy and the lack of any moral compass. Like Sabet pushing Sharia Laws, Klieman is a used car salesman selling lemons to scared little old people and kids. An Academian Nut.
Mark Kleiman is like the Peter Oâ€™Toole character in the movie Murphyâ€™s War. He canâ€™t stop himself from dropping bombs even when it appears the war is over.
– regulation will create more chaos but Prohibition sucks… huh?
– capitalism is good
– capitalism is bad
he confoozes me, so much silliness dances in this man’s head.
Now check out this pirouette by K. Lieman:
So pot’s just not that popular, but freedom is… tha’s cool, kinda the way it should be, yeah?
But Markie, I’m confused… beer and pot are not the same, pot is exponentially safer with a dependency potential that ranks alongside coffee… and I did a lot of checking yesterday and I found lots of data on how much alcohol and tobacco costs affect a state via health care and lost productivity but ya know, I didn’t find any state data suggesting that any state is suffering extra health care costs because of cannabis. Weird, huh?
But somehow “one of the safest therapeutic substances known to man” will become extremely troublesome… Domino’s will run out of dough? or pizza sauce maybe?
Yeah… before Europe landed on Turtle Island there were no fences here. There was no “wilderness” because all was free, unencumbered (except for the laws of the nature, which are really, really, REALLY hard to avoid). And before Prohibition, there wasn’t Prohibition and cannabis use wasn’t a problem… but now, after Prohibition, re-legal cannabis will be? Oy!
fuck mark klieman
For you Clay:
Nicely unraveled Pete, (and all).
I guess M. Kleiman thinks all of his fictional horrors will eventually be created by his fictional Dr. Frankenstein.
No problem, I’ve got time, I’ll wait.
It should be legalized at the Federal level, but allow the states great latitude on exactly how to regulate it. What happened with WA and CO is a perfect example; it is my opinion that CO’s version of legalization is far preferable to WA’s. I’d personally like to see 20 different models tested across the country.
This was obviously not written by me. I’m putting this one in the “forty barrels and twenty kegs of Coca Cola” category:
That video is from the middle of 2013.
My own state of Oregon is a good example of state cowardice. Even before March the local Chamber Of Commerce-approved media of southern OR has been breathlessly repeating prohibitionist messages and now there’s a kind of “gold rush” to ban dispensaries under the pretext of obedience to federal law. The backroads are full of “US Out Of UN” signs and this is how they want to go. Outside Portland we’re an impoverished, stagnant wasteland to be pushed around by any and all cranks.
that’s why I sent in my oped to the Reg-Guard… and I used “the drug war is worse than 9/11” line. And miracle of miracles – I kept it under 500 words for a change.
Are you on the dpfor list Frank?
The Oregon prohibitionists trying to use Federal law to avoid doing their job is particularly stupid considering the ruling from the Oregon Supreme Court in Willis v Winters (2011)
Where the heck is â€œthe LAW is the LAW (blah, blah, blah)â€ crowd when authorities decide to break the law and violate their Oath? Up in the peanut gallery cheering that lawbreaking like the hypocritical partisan hacks that they are is where.
My favorite little piece of BS:
Hundreds of thousands of unintentional “overdoses” every year experiencing the most horrifying symptoms, huh? Right, and how many of them were turned into bats? Citation please, else we chalk it up to more reefer madness. Of course, (K)lieman never cites his sources, because he only trusts his own made-up statistics. And that’s why we say the K is silent.
He’d be a lot more credible if he stuck to something he actually knows about, like How
notto make a hash of marijuana legalization:
Tax the hell out of it and step up law enforcement “in order to undercut the illicit market”. You call that legalization? Oh yeah, and present a bill for this sage advice that causes the state to go nine times over-budget on consulting while falling at least half a year behind the other legalizing state that enjoys state-legal cannabis sales and tax revenues right now while Washingtonians wait (meanwhile their State Congress attempts to gut their medical mj program). Now that’s some nasty hash!
i remain optimistic, time is on our side.
Legalization is so NOT hard if you drop all prejudice and look around for the most analogous legal product and how it is regulated. In my view, that would be wine, particularly fine wine. Plenty of parallels with how it is produced, and how people shop for it, appreciate it, etc.
At the moment, the US wine trade suffers from 50 different sets of rules that are mostly arbitrary based on local political and business realities. The trade limps along fairly well but there’s plenty of wine consumer frustration due to some stupid legacy laws that benefit certain powerful interests in each state, the distributors.
What to learn from the wine trade?
No mandated three tier system. It’s unfair to producers, retailers and consumers.
There will be some some large brands, but also plenty of small producers.
There will quality at many price levels.
Keep excise taxes reasonable and all combined taxes to no greater than about 15% of the low end of retail prices. (the excise tax on a $10 bottle is the same a $100 bottle, only the sales tax differs, where it is applied)
Many states allow home production of fairly generous amounts without licensing or tax requirements.
Those are just a few examples, obviously wine is alcohol in fairly dilute form (just as pot flower is THC in fairly low concentration) but since that trade and regulatory system has been around for a while, it provides a model most bureaucrats can understand. Some additional consideration would need to be given too highly concentrated forms but that can done too, if the people with the powers to do this would get their heads out of their asses. WA and CO still could improve what they’ve done so far, but at least there’s a start.
first license to grow in wa goes to a man named green:http://tinyurl.com/pwycf9u
Sorry for any OT here.
Harvard professor urges NFL to fund medical marijuana studies for CTE treatment
â€œThe extensive research required to definitively determine cannabisâ€™s ability to prevent CTE will require millions of dollars in upfront investment,â€ Dr. Lester Grinspoon wrote in an open letter to Goodell, via LeafScience.com. â€œ[I]tâ€™s highly unlikely that a pharmaceutical company will get involved in studying cannabis as a treatment for CTE, because the plant [and its natural components] canâ€™t be patented.â€
â€œGiven the severity of the problem . . . I think you, and the NFL, must go beyond simply following the medicine, and help lead the way by directly funding research to determine if cannabis . . . can indeed provide significant protection against the damage of repetitive concussions,â€ Grinspoon wrote to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.
yeah… way to go Doc Lester! The NFL should encourage pot use for those wish it, not microscopically poke thru players’ piss trying to enforce its ban.
I’m serious… that pee thing with which so many are obsessed is a weird fetish even for me to grasp… and I live in Eugene. Golden showers are one thing, gettin’ in there with a microscope is a in a league of its own.
Thanks for sharing TC!
Holy Ivory Towers Batman, it’s The Professor!
Yes Robin, and he’s up to his old tricks again. Babbling incessantly in some arcane language that sounds very much like English, claiming expertise where he has none, and slicing the salamis of the good people in Washington State.
To the Batmobile and hurry, we must send a message to the children!
Pete, this was a great post. It takes balls to say fuck the feds, and you’ve got em!
It’s the endocannabinoid system and the idea that cannabis is a tool for homeostasis and health, that makes claims of addiction really problematic.
How do you separate addiction from appropriate self-medication?