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Elections 2012

Legalizing Pot: One Step at a Time

November 26, 2012 06:35:34 am
Comments (5)

By Mark Kleiman

Public opinion about marijuana has moved sharply over the past few years to the point where about half of Americans surveyed now support legalization. In November, Washington State and Colorado took the leap of approving commercial production and sale for non-medical use, under more or less the same rules that apply to alcohol.

Ideologues on both sides claim to know with certainty what the results of legalization would be: all good in the view of the legalization advocates; all bad in the view of those who support the current laws.

But those of us who try to study the issue scientifically find ourselves in a world of doubt.

How much lower would legal prices be than current illegal prices? If there were heavy taxes, how much evasion would there be? Would buyers in a legal market favor possibly more dangerous high-potency varieties, or would lower-strength products dominate the marijuana market as beer dominates the alcohol market?

Would legalization greatly increase problem marijuana use? Use among teenagers? (That might depend on the price.) Would there be an increase in auto accidents due to stoned driving?

Would problem drinking decrease – or increase – as result?

All of those questions matter. None of them can be answered by abstract reasoning, or by studying small variations in marijuana policy such as decriminalization of possession for personal use.

The only way to find out how legalization would work in practice is to actually try it.

But actually trying it on a national basis carries heavy risks. If it goes badly—if, for example, heavy use and use among teenagers quadrupled—it would be very hard to put the genie back in the bottle. All those new users would become potential customers for an expanded illicit market if the drug were re-prohibited.

So the obvious way to learn something about marijuana legalization would be to try it out one state at a time: relying on what Justice Brandeis called “the laboratories of democracy.”

If Colorado’s legalization went badly, that would be a much easier problem to correct than if the mistake had been made on a national basis.

Of course, it’s not really possible to legalize in a single state with the federal prohibition in place. Making growing and selling marijuana legal under state law doesn’t make it any less of a federal crime. But in practice, most enforcement is done at the state and local level.

So removing the state law would allow us to learn quite a lot about the consequences of full legalization.

Virtually no one advocates completely unregulated trade in marijuana. For example, there is near-universal support for a ban on sales to minors, for product-labeling requirements, and for a substantial tax to prevent a drastic price decrease and help deal with state budget crises.

 All of those are written into both the Washington and Colorado laws, and one of the things we could learn from their experience is how well that regulatory process works and how hard it is to collect those taxes.

But the federal government could shut down both of those experiments, if it were determined to do so. Everyone who applies for a license to grow or sell marijuana is, in effect, asking the state for permission to break the federal law, and that list of applicants could become a list of targets for federal drug-enforcement agents.

That approach would please the drug warriors. But it would make it impossible to learn anything useful from the Colorado and Washington experiments.

So why shouldn’t the federal government cut Colorado and Washington some slack?

As long as those states prevent marijuana grown under their laws from crossing state lines and thereby subverting marijuana prohibition in the rest of the states, the Justice Department could step back and let the consequences of the new policies play themselves out. They might succeed, or they might fail.

In either case, the rest of us could learn from their experience.

Mark Kleiman is Professor of Public Policy at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs and the co-author of Marijuana Legalization: What Everyone Needs to Know. This column is cross-posted from the Reality-Based Community (http://www.samefacts.com). He welcomes comments from readers.

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Posted by sudon't
Monday, December 03, 2012 11:40

Regarding Dr Alexander Jablanczy’s comments, I’ve never seen so much nonsense in one place. But let’s just take his story about his own experience:

“However I did smoke one a significant amount of marihuana as an experiment and concluded that while it made me giggling silly happy and quite high higher than I have ever been before or since I also concluded that it made my IQ drop like a stone.”

Clearly English is not Dr. Jablanczy’s first language. But I believe he meant to say that, “once I smoked a significant amount.” Someone forgot to tell the doctor that you can’t smoke pot for the first time and get high. Or maybe, like me, he’d forgotten that tidbit. I was reminded of this fact when I dated a woman, in her thirties, who had never smoked pot before. It took her two weeks of daily smoking before she started to feel the effects.
As a doctor, Dr. Jablanczy will have heard of the placebo effect. One hopes so anyway, because nearly everything else he thinks he knows is nonsense. I would advise him not to attach his real name to such baloney, lest it have real world consequences for his practice. You don’t want your patients to google you, and find out you have no idea what you’re talking about in your own field.

Posted by Thinking Clearly
Thursday, November 29, 2012 09:17

Mark Kleiman is suggesting a sensible response from the Federal Government. I believe it is a good suggestion. It would be refreshing to see a sensible response from them.

Dr Alexander Jablanczy MD: For someone who describes himself as a Libertarian you are very unlike one for wishing a death sentence upon an individual for selling pot. Pot doesn’t drop a persons IQ like a rock. Alcohol does. Your conclusions suffer. I wish you a speedy recovery.

Posted by Malcolm Kyle
Thursday, November 29, 2012 06:15

“I have gone there 3 times and the waiting room is packed at every appointment and you could wait 1+ hours easily to get in! Doctor goes off on unrelated tangents to the point where you can forget why you even went to see him. Reputation for prescribing a lot of different medications. "


Posted by Nicko
Thursday, November 29, 2012 05:59

Dr Alexander Jablanczy MD (yea right).
Your first try of marijuana most definitely was not as long ago as you report. How else can you explain all of the grammatical and spelling errors?

Posted by Dr Alexander Jablanczy MD
Tuesday, November 27, 2012 06:05

As a quasi libertarian and ex revolutionary from the sixties I would support of course any liberalisation of nearly everything and the elimination of granny state control of adult human choices.
However I did smoke one a significant amount of marihuana as an experiment and concluded that while it made me giggling silly happy and quite high higher than I have ever been before or since I also concluded that it made my IQ drop like a stone. Whatever human qualities I have the most important thing in my humanity is my intellect. In that it is much worse than alcohol as i can still sudy read learn reason while inebriated, that is simply impossible when stoned.
So I made a choice then and there that I would rather be miserable and intelligent than happy and stupid. So for the next 45 years I quit.
But having relearned molecular medicine and lately cellular biology and neurotrasmitters and receptors and action potentials of presynaptic axons it is clear to me thet the stupidity I experienced has a very real material correlate: viz, the neurons actually slow down electrical and chemical transmission. Marihuna makes you stupid.
So opposition to ANY DRUG ABUSE whtsoever is not based on a whim or a prejudice nor a mere opinion but scentific unarguable fact.
Simply read THE BRAIN FROM TOP TO BOTTOM , BTW the very best website on the net from McGIll U. and you can learn about all these drug addictions at the molecular level.
This is now quite well worked out but the other aspect is still in its infancy, the subscience of addictology. We simply know nothing and what we know is all wrong.
The state is in the business of supporting gambling addiction with lotteries casinos on line gambling horse racing sport betting all not just corrupting influences but inadvertently or maliciously teaching the populace how to become addicts.
Addicts’ main characteristic other than their addiction is that they are all liars and self deluding ignoramuses for they really know not what they do. They dont know about opiate receptor dysfunction extinction resynthesis and consequent death. They also dont know that there are 50! endocannabinoids of which anandamine is one. That endorphin enkephalin dynorphin made by the opiate naive body is just as potent as morphine heroin methadone fentanyl KROKODIL desomorphine. But if these exogenous ordures are used the body stops making the endogenous ones and destroys their receptors in self defence.
Only very ignorant and very stupid doctors use Oxy and Perc which are unnecessary unless your aim is to add to the ranks of drug addicts.
The entry drugs are nicotine and caffeine unknown in ancient civilizations. Marihuna is a distant third.
All are unencessary without any legitimate indication. Even the verbiage is odious recreational drugs. Bosh. Drugs are pharmakon ie both medicines and poisons. Tertium non datur.
The Greeks and Romans were so overwhelmed by the effect of very weak beer and wine that they invented gods to explain the ecstatic effect: Dionysius and Bacchus. Drunk maenads would tear young men limb from limb. Their excuse was possession by Dionysius ie the god of wine.
The assassins of course were hashashin empowered to murder without conscience by their use of hashish. Spiffy.
In spite of these factual warnings about the dangers and folly of all mind altering substances I fully support the two states’ legalisation of marihuana use.
For it is a necessary and worthwhile experiment to see what its effect will be. But it must be run for at least ten years then reassessed and in the other case even for twenty years. For it might take a generation to fully experienxe the degradation IQ deficit increase in crime social upheaval which I expext. But it might be immeasurable as the baseline use else where is already so rampant that the control group would be nearly identical to the experimetal one.
Two other states similar to the experimental ones should have the death penalty imposed for any buying or selling or trasporting of any drug whatsoever Now that would be a real contorl group with 0 use.
And unlimited use in those two states.
But neither will happen So the experimental design is faulty all but useless and uncontrolled hence meanigless.
I am not holding my breath.

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