420 Shades of Grey: Kilmer on Marijuana Legalization

RAND drug policy expert Dr. Beau Kilmer thinks that the Department of Justice’s decision not to challenge marijuana legalization in Colorado and Washington could

encourage other states and other countries to consider the radical shift from marijuana prohibition to allowing the development of a commercial marijuana industry. But it’s critical to note those are not the only choices. Marijuana policy isn’t a black or white issue. Indeed, it’s more like 420 shades of grey.

The non-commercial policy options he mentions include home growing, state monopolies, and allowing marijuana production only by “for benefit” organizations.

He also has some advice for states that might legalize in the near future:

Policy options become even greyer when you realize that decisions about marijuana don’t have to be permanent. But once for-profit companies and their lobbyists get entrenched, it could be harder to make changes. Thus, pioneering jurisdictions may want to consider incremental approaches that begin with non-profit regimes.

It’s a good read by an important thinker in this area; you can catch it now on CNN’s website.

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.

10 thoughts on “420 Shades of Grey: Kilmer on Marijuana Legalization”

  1. “But once for-profit companies and their lobbyists get entrenched, it could be harder to make changes.”

    This wisdom should be emblazoned on the facade of every state Capitol, and every county Government Center, and every City Hall, and it should be incorporated somehow into the oath of office of every legislator, at every level, throughout our country.

  2. Drug worriers are always getting all worked up over the prospect of marijuana legalization. Amusing.

    Scientists are discovering what a lot of us already knew — practically anything can be addictive and have the same negative effects as drug addiction. Joseph Schroeder of Connecticut College in New London found that Oreo cookies have similar addictive effects using the same biological mechanisms as Cocaine and Morphine. So I guess Keith might actually have a valid point about legalization and commercialization leading to more potent products: Nabisco has been fiddling with the potency of Oreos for years. These are not your grandfather’s Woodstock cookies!

    Anyone still serious about using the law to curb addiction really has their work cut out for them.

    1. It would be oddly blind to look only at addictive capture and not at its consequences.

      Presupposing the Oreo findings are accurate, compare the downstream consequences of serious cookie addiction (e.g., obesity, consuming less food that’s really good for you, crumbs around the house attracting pests, etc.) to the downstream consequences of serious meth or cocaine addiction (e.g., sleep deprivation, psychosis, weird and sometimes violent behaviors, etc.).

      1. Whatever the “consequences” are, there’s very little evidence legal sanctions have much effect on addictive behaviors. They also impose costs on users and society that do more to obstruct the possibility of treatment and recovery, even when treatment is available as it often is not in any substantive form once you’re involved in the justice system, than they do to assist it.

        The problem is that piling on “consequences” is more politically popular to impose than good, available treatment is to fund. In a country where politicians put good public policy first, they would ignore such sentiments in crafting policy. That is some country other than the US, however, where such nonsense becomes policy.

      2. to the downstream consequences of serious meth or cocaine addiction

        (1) Didn’t we go from milder forms of coca (leaf, tea, cough drops, wine) into more potent, refined, harmful and unregulated forms (cocaine, freebasing, crack) while under Prohibition?

        We went from medical opium to morphine to heroin to fentanyl–while all this isht was illegal.

        Progressives need to apply skepticism to the idea that policy is infinitely malleable, omnipotent, and predictable. “Government by magic wand” exists only in fairy tales and dystopian dictatorships.

        Man, it’s as if some people are obsessed with exercising control, domination, and power over others.

      3. It would be oddly blind to look only at addictive capture and not at its consequences.

        Yes, Otter! Exactly my point. Yet you see a lot of that on this blog [1]. I’m interested in reading your thoughts on the relative harms of Oero addiction vs. marijuana. How are long-term heavy users like for example Tommy Chong and Willie Nelson adversely effected, and what adverse effects might we expect if they were to consume as much Oreos (or coffee) over the same time period?

        [1] Here are a few recent examples:

        So the biggest worry about legalize cannabis would be a big upsurge in heavy use

        But the goal of taxation, along with the rest of policy toward legal cannabis, should be to minimize drug abuse while allowing easy access for responsible use.

        The replacement of the commercial grade-dominated market with a sinsemilla-dominated market would result in more users speeding up the achievement of intoxication and thereby increasing their likelihood of becoming addicted to cannabis.

  3. “420 shades of grey..” Fifty was too much for most of us. Though I suppose being tied up and screwed every which way is a fair metaphor for the current situation.

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