How to Avoid ‘Dumb’ Marijuana Legalization

The majority of Americans support the legalization of marijuana. Despite that fact, we spend about $1 billion annually to enforce prohibition. So a sensible person should accept that legalization is coming, and concentrate on preventing the larger harm, which is a bad system of legalization.

If we legalize alcohol-style we’ll get a big increase in consumption. The systems being put into place in Washington and Colorado roughly resemble those imposed on alcohol after Prohibition ended; we created a hugely lucrative commercial industry which has consolidated and used its lobbying muscle to further its objectives, which are precisely contrary to the public interest.

Since 80 percent of alcohol sold is consumed by 20 percent of users, from the industry perspective substance abuse isn’t the problem; it’s the target demographic.-Mark KleimanMaking the same mistake with cannabis would be worse than prohibition. Despite their public relations positions, alcohol purveyors depend on active alcoholics to stay in business. Since 80 percent of alcohol sold is consumed by 20 percent of users, from the industry perspective substance abuse isn’t the problem; it’s the target demographic.

Commercial cannabis will be exactly the same. Creating a “big cannabis” industry will bring about marketing practices and lobbying agenda dedicated to creating and sustaining problem drug use, particularly among minors who are the future of the industry.

Also Read: 3 Violence-Minimizing Drug Policies That Work

How to Avoid “Big Marijuana”

The trick to legalizing marijuana, then, is to frustrate the logic of the market, to interfere with its tendency to create and exploit people with substance abuse disorders. Price and information are the two major policy levers that could deter cannabis abuse. Marijuana is already cheap and will get cheaper under legalization. Taxes are one way to keep prices up, but without uniformity between states, taxes will foster interstate smuggling, as the tobacco markets illustrate. Only a federal system will solve the smuggling problem. But government can require potency disclosure and product labeling as well as outreach to prevent both drug abuse and impaired driving.

To prevent “big marijuana” from having its corporate thumb on the public policy scale, we could require that cannabis be sold only through nonprofits, but the most effective system is state-run retail stores.

By contracting with many small growers, rather than a few giant ones, states could check the industry’s political power and maintain consumer choice by avoiding a beer-like oligopoly offering virtually interchangeable products.-Mark KleimanThere’s plenty of precedent for this: Utah, Pennsylvania and Alabama restrict hard liquor sales to state operated or state-controlled outlets, and operationally they work fine. A “state store” system would also allow the states to control the pot supply chain. By contracting with many small growers, rather than a few giant ones, states could check the industry’s political power (concentrated industries are almost always more effective at lobbying than those comprised of many small companies) and maintain consumer choice by avoiding a beer-like oligopoly offering virtually interchangeable products.

The time to act at the national level is now. The state-by-state process is getting us locked in to the wrong model; once there are billions of dollars a year of pot being commercially sold under state-level legalization, it will be virtually impossible to put them out of business.

Soon enough, candidates for president are going to be asked their positions on marijuana legalization… I suggest something like this: “I’m not against all legalization; I’m against dumb legalization.”-Mark Kleiman

To avoid getting locked into bad policies, lawmakers in Washington need to act, and quickly. Despite public opinion against cannabis prohibition, no national-level figure of any standing has been willing to speak out for change. That’s unlikely to last. Soon enough, candidates for president are going to be asked their positions on marijuana legalization. They’re going to need a good answer. I suggest something like this: “I’m not against all legalization; I’m against dumb legalization.”

Also Read: Will Marijuana Prohibition Save the World?

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What Are Your Thoughts on this Topic?

  • http://www.anthonytaurus.com Anthony Taurus

    Saw this sent to me in an email about 2-3 weeks (takes me a while to get through all my email). I was asked to respond.

    I would say, from the beginning, Prof. Kleiman makes a major mistake in comparing alcohol to marijuana in terms of “problem drug use, particularly among minors who are the future of the industry.” which the entire piece is based upon.

    This is a very old concept that is simply not fair or accurate. It’s easy to stigmatize marijuana as the “boogeyman” because alcohol can be dangerous. But, Kleiman can’t really go into any honest comparisons because 1) it will destroy his “problem” argument and 2) it’s a short article. If Kleiman actually knew more about marijuana, he’d never have advanced such a tired and false argument. (example: Harvard professor, Dr. Lester Grinspoon).

    It’s like comparing two guys with knives. One’s a chef and the other is a killer. But, we’re supposed to be scared of the chef because any man with a knife is a killer. When you actually look closer, you’ll know who to fear and who’s going to feed you. Kleiman, in my opinion, from the argument advanced, doesn’t know the difference between the killer and the chef as he hasn’t stopped to recognize whether he’s in a dark park with little light or a restaurant with other diners.

    Then, the “big marijuana” argument. It’s completely unnecessary. This concept of looking at marijuana through the lens of alcohol needs to be over and done with. We shouldn’t be prepairing for marijuana legalization with this tainted view.

    First, we need to start with looking at the truth about marijuana, as it is and not as what unknowing people imagine it to be. It’s that viewpoint that controls how we react.

    Marijuana is not a dangerous narcotic. You ARE going to be extremely giddy or extremely relaxed (depends on the strain). And.. and.. and.. you will have some short term memory loss, slow mobility, lowered sperm count. Don’t look for blogs. I have a blog and I don’t even want you looking at mine for information. I’m just an opinion. Look for medical journals. Look for doctors and researchers in medical science. Trust what they say.

    As it pertains to big marijuana, commercially, it should be treated like alcohol or tobacco. Big producers will push out their cheap processed goods coming from large farms. Boutiques will offer the mid to high range of goods along with medicinal grade goods. And, you’ll have your microbreweries producing specific strains that only they specialize in.

    That’s not dumb legalization. That’s reasonable legalization. Because, it’s not a dangerous drug that needs to be severely controlled – not alcohol. Yes, regulate it. Tax it if you want. But, don’t create some fascist system of control and definitely not have the policy directed by someone that knows little to nothing about it.

    The US govt made that mistake in 1937 when they passed the Marijuana Tax Stamp Act. They voted on it with racist and xenophobic attitudes. Don’t create further policy with attitudes drenched in a different dressing of misinformation and misconceptions. That’s how the bad policy was created in the first place.

    Remember, marijuana has been around for thousands of years. It was always seen as a medicine, a commodity, and a recreational item. If you want to control it, do so reasonably. Get a proper education about marijuana and then work on policy.