John Ingold on alcohol and cannabis

One side-effect of the legalization of cannabis in Colorado and Washington is that there are now drug-beat reporters, a species last spotted around 1990 and once believed to be extinct. That matters a lot; the drug issue is so full of technical detail and counter-intuitive relationships that trying to explain it to someone who doesn’t play the game is exhausting and often unsuccessful.

One of the best examples of the new breed is John Ingold of the Denver Post. His current piece explores the question “Will marijuana legalization increase or decrease heavy drinking?” and it does so with considerable nuance.

Comments

  1. strayan says

    “It’s a big, complicated change.”

    Err… cannabis use was unlawful and now it is lawful. What else has changed?

    By the way Mark, thanks for reminding us that nobody can see into the future because, y’know, that wasn’t blindingly obvious enough already.

    • Mark Kleiman says

      If you really don’t know what’s complicated about legalizing marijuana, there happens to be a book about it. Or you can read the 62 pages of legal text that constituted I-502, the Washington State marijuana legalization initiative.

      In any case, your question is mis-stated; making use lawful would be a small change; the large change is making commercial production and sale lawful, as both Washington and Colorado plan to do.

      As to seeing into the future, sometimes it’s easy: if something gets much cheaper, people will use more of it. If the “something” is an abusable drug, some of those people will develop a substance abuse disorder.

      It’s also not hard to foresee that some people won’t go to prison because marijuana selling will no longer be illegal.

      See? Gazing into the future: not hard at all. I’m even willing to predict that the sun will rise in the morning.

      On the other hand, some things are hard to predict: in this case, the impact of marijuana legalization on heavy drinking. That’s not because prediction is impossible in principle; it’s because the causal relationships in this particular case are unknown. The thing that tells you which predictions can be made with reasonable accuracy, and which predictions can’t, is called “science.”

  2. says

    In the case of concomitant use of alcohol+cannabis, the sole example of increased harm mentioned is impaired driving. What about violence or illness?

    • Mark Kleiman says

      Interaction effects are unknown. But a the issue isn’t just concomitant use; it’s whether heavy drinking goes up or down. Assume that ten beers, plus a joint, is no worse than ten beers alone. The ten beers are damaging enough. What we don’t know is whether the frequency of drinking binges will increase or decrease.

      • says

        What are the proposed mechanisms for increased heavy drinking? If the greater alcohol use isn’t during joint sessions (npi), why (or how) would solo alcohol sessions change? Neurological changes brought on by cannabis?

  3. Keith Humphreys says

    In studying the impact of legalization in thin states, a challenge will be to pick the right baseline. States are not going from aggressive enforcement to legalization (at least so far). Rather there is a sort of quasi-legal medical marijuana phase between them, which carries some legalization impacts (e.g., advertising, at least in California) and so is sort of a half-implemented independent variable.

  4. Dan Staley says

    I think I mentioned this here before, but during the ramp-up and at the height of The Great Recession, Colo got hit early. Our ZIP code was the early leader in home foreclosures, and stayed there. Yet the warehouses up the road all stayed open, no problem. They had MMJ grow ops keeping them afloat. There is certainly demand, and I suspect there will be some replacement of alcohol with MJ. Probably not much, but I’m willing to wager enough such that alcohol-related incidents will show a measurable decrease. I hope so – about every 14 weeks someone hits a tree around here with their car, and almost certainly they aren’t stoned drivers. I’m tired of replacing these trees, so hurry it up, folks.

    • snoey says

      Substitution should vary by price. If Colorado’s new grow your own and “free” transfer law floods the market your trees may stand a better chance.

      • Dan Staley says

        If Colorado’s new grow your own and “free” transfer law floods the market your trees may stand a better chance.

        I agree that’s a good possibility, to a point: there is a barrier to entry as your little grow has to be behind a locked door. Meaning you need ventilation, grow lights, safe wiring, know-how, lumber, equipment, etc. adding up to several hundreds of dollars for your little stash. I’m sure folks will choose to share costs in a chosen basement, but still. We don’t know how enforcement will play out (if it will at all, but the Federales are a wild card).

        AIUI my wife tells me there are now stores or something similar opening up (not following it so I can’t speak to the issue, only speculate), so this may make the personal grow moot.

  5. Malcolm Kyle says

    All those involved in the alcohol business appear to believe that legally regulated marijuana (production and sale) will have a negative effect on their profits —would you kindly explain to us why you think they may be wasting their money?

    Ryan Donaghy, Chairman of the Board Donaghy Sales, LLC Alcoholic beverage distributer, steadily funds anti-marijuana efforts

    Ron Fowler, Immediate Past Chairman Liquid Investments, LLC Alcoholic beverage distributer, steadily funds anti-marijuana efforts

    Tom Reyes, Vice Chairman Crest Beverage, LLC; Gate City Beverage Distributors-San Bernardino; Harbor Distributing, LLC-Anaheim, Gardena, Santa Ana Alcoholic beverage distributer, steadily funds anti-marijuana efforts

    David “Duke” Reyes, Chief Financial Officer Crest Beverage, LLC; Gate City Beverage Distributors-San Bernardino; Harbor Distributing, LLC-Anaheim, Gardena, Santa Ana Alcoholic beverage distributer, steadily funds anti-marijuana efforts

    Peter Heimark, Secretary Heimark Distributing Co. Triangle Distributing Co. Alcoholic beverage distributer, steadily funds anti-marijuana efforts

    Terence Fox, NBWA CA Director M.E. Fox and Co. Alcoholic beverage distributer, steadily funds anti-marijuana efforts

    Travis Markstein, NBWA CA Director Markstein Beverage Co. Sacramento; Markstein Beverage Co. San Marcos Alcoholic beverage distributer, steadily funds anti-marijuana efforts

    Cherisse Alford, CBBD PAC Chair Alford Distributing, Alcoholic beverage distributer, steadily funds anti-marijuana efforts

    Jeff Jordano, Management Committee Member Pacific Beverage Co. Alcoholic beverage distributer, steadily funds anti-marijuana efforts

    T.J. Louderback, Management Committee Member Anheuser-Busch In Bev Sales Inc. of Pomona and Antelope Valley, Alcoholic beverage distributer, steadily funds anti-marijuana efforts
    etc. etc. etc.

    http://1anonymouslegion.com/whoiskeepingcannabisillegal/

    • Dan Staley says

      Of course, just like Fox News spreading misinformation about Al-Jazeera coming to Exceptional Murrica: cutting off competition.

      Personally, I think the two markets have some overlap but there are many differences. IMHO (willing to be corrected), you drink for one purpose, smoke for another.

      • Are You Kidding says

        That list is HILARIOUS. Anti-Drug groups don’t get a dime from these folks, so I would highly question this source. You’ve gotta be kidding. Be more specific or shut up with this garbage

  6. Frank says

    Another case to compare will be Uruguay with their legalizaiton through government-monopoly initiative…

    • Are You Kidding says

      Legalization aint happening there. 80% of people oppose it and the legislature doesn’t want it. Sawwy.

  7. says

    Whether marijuana (or any other drug, for that matter)is a complement to or a substitute for alcohol is an empirical question and should be carefully analysed. Leaving aside the limitations of such metrics (data availability & reliability, results generalisation, etc.), I would argue that cross-elasticity is not the only, not even the main, criterion drugs (in this case, marijuana) legalisation should be judged; or what amount to the same, prohibition should be kept in place.

    I have no doubts that increases in consumption of drugs, be it marijuana, cocaine, etc., and their complements (if that happens to be the case) would be a cause for concern. The question remains, though. Is criminalisation, not just of consumption, but of the whole drugs market (production, distribution & consumption) the rational way to tackle the so called drug problem?

    Lest we take a solipsistic and rather parochial view, the merits of any Regulated Legalisation regime for the drugs market should be weighed against the host of heinous consequences Prohibition and the so-called War on Drugs have had not just in the US but worldwide. It means taking into account not only the consumption but the devastating consequences the criminalisation of the production and distribution of drugs have had and continue to have worldwide, particularly in drug producing and transit countries.

    Gart Valenc
    Twitter: @gartvalenc

  8. pothead says

    I can only speak for myself, but I choose pot instead of alcohol and have for a very long time, it’s just a safer and softer drug. How many others will if pot is legal? I would guess that it would be statistically significant, but probably just barely. I can’t wait to see if I am right or wrong though, it won’t be clear for years.

  9. O. B. Server says

    re: “One of the best examples of the new breed is John Ingold of the Denver Post. His current piece explores the question “Will marijuana legalization increase or decrease heavy drinking?” and it does so with considerable nuance.”

    I have to eat my words (comments re ‘Drunken Violence’, Jan. 2) because, lo, here it indeed gets mention. In the Denver Post.

    I’m foolishly hopeful this will get the attention it deserves. (Should we hold our breaths waiting for AP/MSM/etc. to echo this piece?)

    I’m optimistic this idea (cannabis displaces drunken violence) won’t just be another statistical problem – that needs more “pot causes highway mayhem” propaganda and obfuscation to overcome. (Maybe a PSA featuring a car-horn over a slow-motion marijuana bong crashing and spilling to the floor, as goodly government police inform Mom her loved ones are slain on streets, because of: marijuana. A few well-funded PSAs like that, and government needn’t worry about troublesome facts about pot reducing drunken violence.)

    Based on past experience, that (pumping up the volume of MISO/psyops/PR/propaganda/lies) is the usual solution. To keep the herd bewildered, and stampeding in the correct direction (loss of traditional rights, perpetual war, inexorable growth of police state).

    But maybe something different will happen this time?

    The existence of pot gives carte blanche excuse to the police state, a delicious power many in government seem loathe to relinquish once they taste it.

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