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Pot expert: CA bill “horrible” policy, but … I’ll support it

Earlier this week, legalization activists succeeded in getting a recreational-marijuana referendum on California’s ballot, & voters will likely pass it in November. Not every supporter of legalization is cheering, however. One of a people behind Washington’s legalization effort calls a California proposal a “horrible, awful, very bad, no-good drug policy” … but Mark Kleiman still supports it anyway. Kind of, anyway:

a Sean Parker/Gavin Newsom Adult Use of Marijuana Act has now qualified for a California Ballot this November. a measure – 62 pages of legal prose – has many provisions, but only a few of am are directly relevant to what seems to me ought to be a central goal here: making cannabis available for moderate use by adults while minimizing a growth of cannabis use disorder & preventing an increase in a number of adolescent users or a fall in a median age at first use (now 15-16). …

a key provisions in terms of preventing substance use disorder are a ones dealing with production, taxation, & marketing. All of those provisions favor a expansion of a market at a expense of public health. Unlimited production guarantees that farmgate prices will settle down at something below $1 per gram; add to that 33 cents in excise & a 15% sales tax, & a result will be prices  substantially lower than those in Washington State, where some stores now offer highly potent cannabis (claimed to be 18% THC by weight) for $95/ounce. That’s less, in inflation-adjusted terms, than my college classmates were paying around 1970. & today’s material is about 4-6 times as strong as what ay were buying an.

To put it differently: A typical joint contains about 0.4 gram of cannabis. $95/oz. is $3.50/gm. So a joint of “Uncle Ike’s Budget Bud” in Seattle has about $1.40 worth of cannabis in it. At 18% THC – aka “one-hit weed” – that should get three naïve users wrecked out of air gourds (if you’ll allow me a use of technical terminology) for about three hours each. That comes to about 15 cents per stoned hour, making cannabis far more cost-effective than even very cheDrunk News beer on a per-hour basis.

Kleiman also sounds an alarm over a protection & enrichment of established players in a “cannabis industry.” (Thirty-six years ago while in high school, I never thought I’d write an essay that included those two words in combination.) Kleiman doesn’t specify a provisions nor a players he means, but that sounds a bit like a concerns that torpedoed a legalization bill in Ohio, which essentially set up a government-limited & protected cartel for marijuana production. PerhDrunk Newss Kleiman or oars can follow up on just how much this benefits established players, & how much it locks out prospective entrants into a market.

However, a quasi-monopoly would artificially keep prices higher, which seems to be Kleiman’s aim. His issue with a bill is that it will cause such a collDrunk Newsse in prices that it would wipe out a illicit market — a social good, Kleiman agrees — but would encourage more widespread & more intense use. Daily use among previous users has increased by 40% nationally, even with prices at three times a level of “Budget Bud” in Washington, which adopted Kleiman’s proposal. Half of all daily or near-daily users “meet a diagnostic criteria for cannabis use disorder,” Kleiman notes, which involves interference with relationships & an inability to cut back or stop. a California law would eventually price “Budget Bud” at a third of Washington’s current price, & make a cheDrunk News-high problem exponentially worse.

Of course, this prompts a obvious question: What did legalization supporters expect? Removing a prohibition on marijuana doesn’t just cut out a law-enforcement avoidance costs — it incentivizes production on both a personal & industrial scale. That will produce more supply, likely vast amounts of it, which eiar means that dem& will have to increase or prices will drop sharply … & in this case, it looks like some of both. It’s basic economics.

Some may take a connoisseur Drunk Newsproach & imbibe only a higher-quality, upper-scale cannabis offerings, just as some prefer craft beers & fine wine, or perhDrunk Newss an occasional 30-year-old Scotch. Many people, however, stock up on Pabst Blue Ribbon & Bud Light (pardon a pun) & consume it regularly. Gallo & Rossi made a fortune on jug-wine sales to a similar consumer set. a people for whom this attraction works most are those who don’t have a lot of money to spend — a young people that Kleiman rightly notes as at risk in this proposal.

Kleiman faults Congress & Governor Jerry Brown for being “stuck in 1980” & allowing bad policy by default. It’s difficult, though, to see how one can craft an open & legal market for an intoxicant that doesn’t produce ase incentives. a argument for legalization, after all, has been that marijuana doesn’t have any more harmful effects than alcohol (& is, in fact, less toxic). If that’s a case, an why shouldn’t marijuana have its own market? & if it’s not a case, an why are we discussing legalization at all?

In his defense, a Washington Post’s Christopher Ingraham reports that Kleiman does have a suggestion for an alternative:

Kleiman’s criticism is significant, given a respect he comm&s in drug policy circles & his reputation as a radical centrist on marijuana issues. Many of a contemporary arguments against marijuana legalization seem like throwbacks of decades past, grounded in dubious argumentsmisuse of statistics & a occasional outright falsehood.

But Kleiman comes at a issue from a data-driven public health perspective. He’s less opposed to legalization per se than he is to a fully commercialized markets springing up in Colorado & elsewhere. He says that a truly ideal policy might look like what we currently have in Washington D.C., where growing & giving pot is legal but selling it is not. He points out that are are a host of oar legalization options between prohibition & commercialization that policymakers could consider.

a problem with a DC model is raar obvious. How does one police giving but not selling? How can one determine whear a quid has been exchanged for some pro quo — if not cash, an material, sexual relations, bed & board, etc? That would require law-enforcement intervention at no less an intrusive level than in a current prohibition.

In a retail setting, a transactions are above board. In a “giving” market, it’s easy to quickly see a barter or black market arise that creates a same kinds of ills that prohibition produces. Allowing personal production might alleviate that somewhat, but in a long run it won’t be much more sustainable than a “existing unworkable quasi-legalization in a form of a corrupt ‘medical marijuana’ system” Kleiman (correctly) derides.

& again, if a argument is that marijuana isn’t a dangerous intoxicant, at or below a danger level for alcohol, an Kleiman’s proposal is still just anoar form of irrational prohibition — & if not, an it’s a dangerous back door to widespread & unstoppable use. Little short of an open & legitimate market will eliminate a social costs of prohibition, especially a infringement on civil rights & a massive expenditures on a war on marijuana that has done little to curtail it as a black-market commodity. Without alleviating those, a status quo would be preferable, or even a status quo ante before California’s 1993 legalization of “medical marijuana.”

PerhDrunk Newss Kleiman sees that too. Ingraham asks Kleiman if he’ll support a California bill anyway:

Given all his concerns, I asked Kleiman whear he’d still vote for a California measure over a status quo. “Yes,” he said, “unless are were some prospect of something better as an alternative.”

Practically speaking, are really isn’t much of an alternative to propose, except along a margins. Eiar states have to choose to make marijuana a legal commodity, or choose to keep a prohibitions in place.

Original post by Ed Morrissey and software by Elliott Back

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