Marijuana Legalization Would Add A New Player into Pot Policy

Mark Kleiman has offered some intriguing observations (here and here) regarding what may happen if a state legalizes marijuana this November. He forecasts the responses of state government, federal government and legalization activists, all of which is fine as far as it goes, but he leaves out an important detail: Legalization would create a new player in pot politics, namely whoever sells legal pot.

As we have seen with the drugs we have already legalized (e.g., alcohol) a legal industry in psychoactive substances will make a great deal of money and use it to keep regulatory structures weak. In Oregon, the legalization initiative gives the private pot production industry a baseline of control (self-regulation only) that the alcohol and tobacco companies could only dream of. In the other states, any new industry will immediately go to work eliminating the weak regulatory controls proposed in the initatives.

How successful these new corporate entities will be in their lobbying isn’t knowable, but it is clear that one cannot predict post-legalization scenarios without taking into account the actions of this new player in the game.

Author: Keith Humphreys

Keith Humphreys is a Professor of Psychiatry at Stanford University. His research, teaching and writing have focused on addictive disorders, self-help organizations (e.g., breast cancer support groups, Alcoholics Anonymous), evaluation research methods, and public policy related to health care, mental illness, veterans and drugs. He is the author or co-author of numerous books and scholarly articles, and has written for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, The Guardian (UK), the San Francisco Chronicle and other media outlets. When he is not in the San Francisco Bay Area, he is usually in London, where he is an ad hoc policy adviser to the national and city government, an honorary professor of psychiatry at Kings College, a senior editorial adviser to the journal Addiction, and a member of The Athenaeum. When he is not in the San Francisco Bay Area or London, he is usually in Washington D.C., where he serves as a frequent science and policy advisor to federal agencies, and where he has served previously as an appointee to a White House commission and several Secretarial task forces. From July 2009-2010, he served as Senior Policy Advisor at the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. When he is not in the San Francisco Bay Area or London or Washington D.C., he is usually in the Middle East, where since 2004 he has volunteered in the international humanitarian effort to rebuild Iraq’s mental health care system. This work has taken him to Turkey, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon to teach and consult with Iraqi health professionals and policy makers.

3 thoughts on “Marijuana Legalization Would Add A New Player into Pot Policy”

  1. Yeah. Just like the grape growers in California and their experience with alcohol prohibition. At one time, those grape growers lived on the criminal edge. Now they have the largest cash crop in the state (behind marijuana). In some communities, they are even respected people. Read up on it a little, and how they engineered a state initiative in 1932 to repeal state alcohol prohibition laws.

    But the reality is that the marijuana market is huge right now, easily into the billions, and perhaps as large as the market for beer. You have three basic choices for who will control the market, make all the rules, set all the production standards, and collect all those billions. The choices are:

    1) Government
    2) Private Business
    3) Organized crime

    We have chosen organized crime to run this trade and collect all the billions. If you oppose legalization then you should explain why you think that giving the whole business to organized crime will produce the best results.

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