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 the Esther Ting Memorial Professor of Psychiatry at Stanford University and an Honorary Professor of Psychiatry at Kings College London. 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, drugs, crime and correctional systems. Professor Humphreys' over 300 scholarly articles, monographs and books have been cited over thirteen thousand times by scientific colleagues. He is a regular contributor to Washington Post and has also written for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Monthly, San Francisco Chronicle, The Guardian (UK), The Telegraph (UK), Times Higher Education (UK), Crossbow (UK) and other media outlets.

9 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. “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.

  3. 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.

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