Keith Humphreys against cannabis legalization

He’s worried about an upsurge in use among disadvantaged youth and about giving the tobacco companies either a new revenue stream or a new ally in the anti-anti-smoking cause. Reasonable worries, but I still think non-commercial legalization would be a clear improvement over current policy.

Keith Humphreys opposes cannabis legalization in principle:  a more radical stance than my own skepticism about Prop 19.

He’s concerned about a big increase in consumption among disadvantaged youth, and about the political economy of giving the tobacco companies either a big new revenue source or a big new ally in the form of a legalized-pot industry. Those are both reasonable concerns, which is why I prefer a non-commercial approach to legalization. But the sheer cost of prohibition – enriching and imprisoning growers and dealers, alienating, arresting, and sometimes jailing the tens of millions of otherwise law-abiding pot-smokers and denying them employment opportunity – and the harmless pleasure cannabis provides to most of its users constitute strong entries on the other side of the ledger. Not everything that’s bad for you needs to be illegal.

The news story doesn’t do anything like full justice to the subtlety of Keith’s views; it’s worth listening to the full audio.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact:

11 thoughts on “Keith Humphreys against cannabis legalization”

  1. The reference to the European practice of mixing tobacco and cannabis seems disingenuous. That practice isn't widespread in the US (not in the Midwest, at least); why would Prop 19 change that?

    P.S. Why is this and the previous post on the Oakland pot proposal filed as 'Uncategorized' as opposed to 'Drug Policy'

  2. "the sheer cost of prohibition" should be "the sheer immorality of prohibition." Locking up pot smokers (and other users of illegal drugs) should be stopped not because of its cost to society (which is what "cost" seems to imply); it should be stopped because it is immoral with respect to its individual victims. It shouldn't matter if a cost-benefit analysis came out on the side of prohibition; Raskolnikov might have been right that killing the pawnbroker had a positive utilitarian effect, but that didn't make it right.

  3. "Not everything that’s bad for you needs to be illegal."

    Or as I like to put it:

    The plant exists on earth.

    I exist on earth.

    I have a right to the plants that exist on earth.

    But try telling that to our fellow Nanny State Republicans.

    You know… the ones that mistrust big government on the one hand

    Yet want the government should discriminate against gays with the other…

    Which is all to say:

    When you admit to no logical consistency…

    The world is both your oyster and your ashtray…

  4. I agree with Henry. I believe that people have an inherent right to get high sometimes, as long as it doesn't make them violent and they don't drive/hurt anyone else. Therefore an inherent right to grow the stuff. I don't see why pot is different from alcohol.

  5. Apparently imprisoning peaceful people, killing some of them, and offing some innocent 'collateral damage' victims along the way is just fine when Kieth Humphreys doesn't get his way.

    Lenin and Pol Pot would approve the reasoning – they just take it farther.

    I checked and it's a very long broadcast, and I simpluy do not have the time at the moment, so maybe I am missing a gem of wisdom, but Mark Kleiman's summary of the points he found significant hardly compensate for the evils that would continue with the status quo. A California legalization (and I completely agree decriminalization would be better) would shoot a big hole in the mindless "drug war" policies that have killed so many and otherwise ruined so many lives over the past few decades.

    The perfect is the enemy of the good – and guarantees nothing will be done. (Does that remind you of reasoning often appearing in this blog during the health reform debate?)

  6. Mark: I think this idea of a tobacco-like oligopoly running the marijuana business has become your 'last line of defense' against accepting legalization. If so, Mark, you can 'step into the light' and join the pro-legalization forces, because

    it ain't gonna happen

    There will be fortunes to be made from legalized marijuana, but not by the sellers or growers, who will merely have another relatively — but not extremely — profitable crop. (If you want to make a mint once it is legalized, start first by seeing which seed companies get the rights to various seed strains, and second at the companies that will attempt to set up Starbucks-like chains of 'tea houses.' I'd bet the first one fails, but a later attempt will match the original.)

    But it isn't going to be the tobacco companies. To repeat the point I made a post on the last pot thread:

    1)The idea that 'marijuana will be legalized and the tobacco companies will take it over' has been 'common wisdom' since I began smoking — 43 years ago.

    2)Somewhere in that period the tobacco companies would have heard this idea too.

    3)They would have run feasibility studies on the idea.

    4)Given their loss of revenue because of the anti-cigarette campaigns, they would have been more likely to accept a feasibility study that showed an even lower level of profitability, just to have a new revenue stream

    5)If such feasibility showed it was even potentially a good idea, the tobacco companies — who are neither timid nor subtle in the way they attempt to influence politics — would have taken steps to bring legalization about, including:

    5a)supporting existing pro-legalization organizations and even starting one of their own;

    5b)supporting Congressmen who have already announced themselves as being pro-legalization or even pro-decriminilization or 'medicalization';

    5c)getting their already 'wholly-owned' Congressmen and Senators to begin arguing in its favor — maybe using the shield of Wm. Buckley and other Conservative pro-legalization people

    5d)working for at least acceptance of 'medical marijuana' in their home states as an opening move there.

    None, not one of these has happened. And sometimes the 'absence of evidence' is 'evidence of absence.' The lack of any such action can only be explained in three ways, and two are so unlikely as to be dismissed immediately

    A)No such studies have been done

    B)Tobacco companies have become squeamish and timid and refused to use the political power they still have to support legalization — even at a time when the numbers in favor if it are approaching or passing 50%

    C)The feasibility studies do exist, and they show that the potential profit for the tobacco companies is so small as to be not worth the effort.

    A and B are absurd, so, unless you have a 'D' to offer, C is proven.

    But, as I said last time, there are practical reasons why C would be true. You have fallen so 'in love' with your picture of tobacco company oligopoly that you haven't looked at what the market will probably look like. I have been thinking about this for over forty years. (Literally. I wrote a series of letters about legalization to a Texas Congressman who had suggested he was open to the idea — one of the Charles Wilsons — in the summer of 1969.) And yet, when i did some minor research last night to confirm my facts, even I was surprised to find out a few things. So, today I am going to get a comment up describing what I believe the legalized marijuana market will look like. It may take me a few hours — and a few pipes, yes, i smoke when i write — and be long enough to stretch the limits of what your platform permits, but I'll get it up.

  7. To discuss the market, I need to deal with a couple of preliminaries.

    The idea of marijuana being sold as 'prepackaged joints' is extremely unlikely. [General note: If someone out there is familiar with the actual workings of California pot stores and can correct any of my comments, please do. I've only seen them on tv and have read few details about how they work.] People are simply not smoking joints as much as they once did. They are incredibly wasteful unless they are being shared. (Smoking a joint alone means about 3/4 of the smoke is wasted into the air. To quote Atlo Guthrie, "You gotta hold it in, Captain.") In fact, a lot of people are apparemntly moving away from 'smoking' in the ordinary sense. There are vaporizers being sold and talked about on marijuana sites, and other innovations. I've never even seen pictures so I don't know how they work — but maybe after Christmas…

    And even if there are still joint smokers left — and sometimes it is nice to share — there is no way that there will be any 'standardization' of size. People will want just the right size for the occasion and won't want to waste any, even if they were as cheap as cigarettes used to be. A thin, 'two toke' one to share with a companion before bed, a thicker one that is the equivalent of the 'it's been a rouch day at the office' cocktail, a thicker one to be passed around during a bridge or poker game, a really big one for showing off at parties. People are going to roll their own, if they don't just use a pipe or pipes. (The only real benefit of joints is that they were easily disposble if you saw the cops coming, but that's no longer a factor in this scenario.)

    So marijuana will be sold in bulk, either in prepackaged ounces or the like, or 'by the bud' where you go to a counter, choose your variety and even, in some places, specific buds, and then they get weighed and wrapped. I'll come back to this later.

    I mention "choose your variety" and in an earlier post on the previous thread, I mentioned that there were distinct strains of marijuana, something that can be learned by reading Andrew Sullivan and looking at the slideshow that CNBC had on its website for a while. But I didn't know how many. I would have guessed two dozen or so, but I decided to do some simple net research last night, and bounced from Wikipedia to a site (I won't link to it and possibly upset Mark's sensibility) called Kind Green Buds, which apparently sells books on growing marijuana, 'coffee table books' of marijuana plants — they have already produced four volumes — and either sell, or are supported by ad revenue from those who sell, seeds.

    The site includes a "Marijuana Strain Library." It lists 248 different and distinct strains. (And it isn't complete. There is an annual 'breeder's competition' usually held in Holland, called "The Cannabis Cup" and the site lists the winners, and the current 'gold' and 'silver' (Super Lemon Haze and Vanilla Kush) are not on the list — I stoped checking there. And the differences aren't just 'other names for the same thing.' The entries in the library use descriptions that sound like a discussion between a botanist, a gardener and a wine expert. One example, for NYC Diesel:

    after listing the developer — and apparently growers are widely known, this one is "SOMA Seeds" (two obvious typos corrected)

    NYC Diesel

    Sativa 60 / Indica 40

    Origins – Sour Diesel x Afghani x Hawaiian

    Flowering – 70 days

    Harvest – Early November

    Soma's New York City Diesel is a pungent sativa with incredible yields. Soma added some Hawaiian and Afghan indica influence to the popular, almost purely sativa Sour Diesel. This raises the hybrid's calyx quotient – NYC Diesel becomes a colossus of airy bud formation with very few leaves. Soma reports indoor yields of up to 100 grams per plant with some extra vegging. The strain favors indoor cultivation except in tropical climates, although good yields have been reported in the semi-arid climate of Southern California.

    This atrain can reach 12 feet outdoors or 4 feet indoors. Soma reports best indoor results from growing NYC Diesel as a multi-branch plant in guano-fertilized soil. The plant responds well to heavy cropping, which encourages it to form four or five big top colas. NYC Diesel's few leaves are thick and wide – more palm than finger – and dark green turning more purple toward harvest. A bed or garden of these tall conifer-like ladies smells exhilirating, like a grove of ripe grapefruit. "Tart citrus" also defines their taste, a little sweeter than the mother strain's lemon tang.

    NYC Diesel is a cerebral daytime toke with a hint of body stone, good for recreation and making or enjoying art. This strain has placed in three Cannabis Cups and is a popular cafe smoke in Amsterdam

    And that's just one. The point is that there is no longer the cannabis equivalent of pekoe for tea, arabica for coffee, Macintosh for apples, domestic cheddar for cheese, or burley for tobacco, a simple base to start a line of products with. Now most of these varieties are 'premium' smoke, well out of my price range at present, but, if my experience is typical, the work of the breeders has made it down to the 'high-grade commercial' I am able to afford. My last three ounces, from three different suppliers, were wildly different strains. I'm not knowledgeable enough to name them — though the middle one seems to be a variant of diesel from the pictures I've seen — but I could bore you with a description of the differences, not in potency — they are all close on that — but on appearance, taste, aroma, smokability, etc. (In fact, the current one would be a favorite except it has a particular taste I've always disliked in weed. And there is a bit of humor in realizing that since one benefit of marijuana is increased sensory discrimination, marijuana smokers are, when given the chance in a legalized environment, likely to be very particular — as my wife put it 'Are you saying grass makes people fusspots' — it took a minute before i groaned. So they are less likely to settle for a 'standard grade' once they learn of the varieties available.)

    So we have a product sold in bulk, ounces or as buds, and a product with an incredible range of strains to choose from. (And, apparently there are distinct 'regional preferences' here as well. NY seems to be strong for Diesel, California may be big on Kush, etc.) And now we add in Mark's insistence, his perfectly accurate observation that people can grow their own. Or co-ops, or individual farmers, or one guy for his block. It would never be the total solution Mark argues for, but it would always be there, pushing prices down, and keeping oligopolies or even significant brand identification forming in the market. (This is true in any easily grown, widely distributed form of produce. What brand of tomato did you buy last, or carrot, or apple, or lettuce — and did the brand, if you even knew it, pay any part in your selection?)

    Add one other factor, that veteran marijuana smokers will tend to be a little suspicious of ready wrapped, opaquely packaged marijuana — not because 'marijuana induices paranpoia' but because all of them may have been burned once or twice. And they do 'trend liberal' and are more suspicious than the average person about corporations to begin with.

    Okay, four factors, and then I'll put them together into a realistic picture of what a totally legal marijuana industry and market would look like in the next comment:

    sold in bulk

    wide variety of strains, no 'consensus strain' and a more particular than average clientele

    easily grown for one's own use and readily shared but also easily sold at roadside stands or at farmer's markets

    slight anti-corporate, anti-opaque packaging bias for consumers.

  8. Okay, let's look at a realistic picture. First, there will be an incredible downward push on price with legalization. Much of the current (@$#%$&^!*) price is a result of its illegality. Each step in the chain from grower to consumer adds a very large mark-up as 'risk insurance' against the catastrophic — even financial — consequences of being busted. And these mark-ups are compounded down the chain, each being based on the cost price for that level. Furthermore, the specific expenses of security, cost of land or building to grow the stuff and special transportation, among others, again coming from the illegality — you don't need men with guns guarding your patch of corn — occur high up the chain, at the first step, so they too are compounded.

    I spoke earlier about $100 an ounce super-premium, but the price will only stabilize that high if there is something like a 100% total tax on the product. More realistically, whatever becomes standard commercial blends will probably go before taxes at about $10 an oz., premium at $15-20, super premium at $30, and maybe freshly introduced Cannabis Cup winners might go for $50 — and those prices would be at ordinary stores, with some luxury or trendy stores, or stores with wide varieties maybe adding a bit, while 'direct from the farmer' the price might be half that or less.

    Okay, I picture a five level market. The first one is the 'free' market, people who grow their own, or who have neighbors who grow their own and 'I grew caramella this year and I didn't realize how much one plant supplied. I'll never be able to smoke this before next year's harvest. Here." (I once lived in the suburbs and knew tomato growers.) This will always cause a strong limit to the price and profitability of the market — another stab in the heart of the oligopoly argument. I doubt if it would be taxable either, and would lessen the overall revenue — but the tax bonanza argument has never been mine.

    The next level is the 'farmer's market' and 'roadside stand' market. At first this will push the price down, but then, once the other markets are established will actually hold it up, because eventually farmers will grow specific high-level strains for this market, and sell lower level strains on the regular market. It still will be a very large portion of the market, particularly for super premium levels, both because there is a tendency to support 'greenmarkets' among one group of smokers, and because people are going to like the thought of picking out their own buds in a 'rustic' and (carefully designed) 'casual' atmosphere.

    There will be a market for 'commercially packed' goods, available pretty much anywhere state regulations allow it to be sold. But I don't see it heading towards a consolidation. Rather the main part of this market will be the equivalent of micro-breweries and local beers (I remember Schlitz, Piels, Schaefer and Rhinegold and even Arrow 77 from baltimore). Maybe in a few decades there will be a consolidation, but by that time smokers' habits will be pretty fixed.

    The next level is the equivalent of pipe tobacco shops, with glass containers filled with different buds, envelopes of broken down and seeded smoke, none 'branded, but just labeled with the name of the shop and the variety. I think this is the way California shops already work, and I'm not sure if this will be a small 'niche' market or the main type of outlet for people just buying smoke and marijuana related products.

    And the top level will be the Starbucks equivalent, the place where you can both buy and enjoy the product in a designer, upscale environment, possibly with separate rooms for people who want conversation, music, or quiet, whatever. I expect there will be a number of these chains starting, but only a couple of them making it.

    And that's what a fully legal marijuana market should look like, as far as I see. Any additions or things I missed? (I didn't discuss taxes much, but at least the top three levels would be easily taxable, and owners would pay substantial license fees.)

    One last thing is advertising, but mundania — mostly my wife and tv — call. I'll get that up, but maybe not until much later.

  9. Yeah, I don't see how you can smoke the amount of marijuana it would take to make it profitable to sell commercially like tobacco is sold. But hey, they sell zucchini in grocery stores…

  10. Guys I found this posted at my website recently, what are your thoughts on a subject? Can you thing me too some better guides over a subject?

    Its all regarding how to grow marijuana indoors. The site linked also has some information that is quite useful.

    Marijuana is really a good herb that grows naturally all more than the planet. Unfortunately it is still illegal to grow marijuana in many countries. Please verify your local laws just before growing marijuana. With that said, letâ??s get growing!

    Itâ??s a general consensus that growing herb is finest done having a excellent hydro system. Hydroponics will be the technique of growing a plant with no soil. You will find a couple of several ways to grow with hydro, but regardless you'll want to pick up some supplies. Very first and foremost you need a light source to grow your herb. There are various technologies out there and I'll break down the advantages and disadvantages of every for you.

    The cheapest and most inefficient light source is compact fluorescent lighting (CFL). There are 2 a variety of styles of CFL lighting. Some people grow marijuana with CFL light bulbs. It is possible to choose these up at the grocery store and also a splitter at your local hardware store. Itâ??s a excellent concept to strive for at least the 100 watt bulbs due to the fact one thing less isn't giving off adequate light. Retain in mind that they are not in particular efficient so you would like as several as 8 or a lot more to grow and flower Three plants. Another kind of CFL lighting is the shop light style. These have a metal bracket applied as being a reflector as well as the bulbs themselves are long and cylindrical. This style of lighting is really a little a lot more efficient than the CFL bulb but nonetheless not ideal for growing marijuana. Whichever variety of CFL bulb you choose, strive for your bluest temperature for vegetative growth and the warmest color light for flowering.

    The following lighting kind is Metal Halide (MH). You see metal halide lights anytime you leave your property out night, as thatâ??s what most street lights use. Metal halide lighting works by converting power having a ballast and then delivering it to an HID bulb. This lighting type is extremely great for vegetative growth but not so a lot for flowering. These systems use really lots of electricity and give off considerable heat so you need to often use MH in conjunction with very good ventilation.

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