Marijuana factz

Mark Twain wrote of “vagrant opinions, living with no visible means of support.” There’s a lot of that going around.

A full day of Prop. 19 today: first the discussion at Cal State Fullerton – where I didn’t get to find out whether the brownies were strictly non-psychoactive, as the organizers claimed, because the audience snarfed them all up before the panelists could get to them – and then opposite Judge James Gray on Ian Masters’s program.

For today’s efforts, I received a quite nice Cal State Fullerton mug and an impressively anti-Semitic email from some Truther who listens to KPFK. I’m starting to wonder whether this is something a grown-up should really make a habit of. (Debating Prop. 19, that is; smoking pot is a also a questionable habit, but in a different way.)

Between today and earlier occasions, I have learned a remarkable number of things I never knew before:

*Marijuana is California’s biggest cash crop.
*Marijuana is 2-4 times as addictive as alcohol.
*Portugal’s decriminalization provides a good basis for predictions about the results of Proposition 19.
*Legalizing cannabis production in California will strike a blow at Mexican drug trafficking organizations and reduce violence. (Ignore the RAND estimate that cannabis sales to CA account for about 3% of DTO revenues.)
*Mexican DTOs will make up for any lost cannabis revenues by increasing sales of other drugs and organizing sales to minors.
*Prop. 19 will yield billions of dollars in revenue to California.
*Cannabis is easier for schoolchildren to get than alcohol; Prop. 19 will make it harder for teenagers to get cannabis because the market will be regulated.
*Cannabis smoking is more carcinogenic than cigarette smoking.
*Under Prop. 19, cities and towns will outsource cannabis production the low bidder and then sell it to consumers. They won’t do any marketing.
*Prop. 19 forbids your employer from firing you for lighting up at work.
*Prop. 19 will lead to an epidemic of stoned driving.
*Prop. 19 will cost California billions of dollars in federal grants and contracts because employers won’t be able to have the required “drug-free workplaces.”
*Marijuana accounts for a substantial share of incarceration on drug charges.
*When pot is legal, the price won’t fall dramatically.
*When the price of pot falls dramatically, that won’t cause a big increase in consumption.
*All the marketing efforts of the legal cannabis industry won’t change demand for pot.
*All the lobbying efforts of the legal cannabis industry won’t lead to lower taxes and looser regulations.
*Canada exports a billion dollars’ a year worth of industrial hemp to the United States.

I think I managed to get through without being actively rude to anyone. The key is to un-learn the academic habit of treating every proposition and argument offered as needing to be taken seriously and requiring a refutation, if false.

Note to self Making sh*t up is a valuable research technique. Must use it more often.

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 “Marijuana factz”

  1. You mean my surgeon won't be able to use his cigarette break to light up during work without risking getting fired?

    A fun parlor game would be for everyone to list these in order of believability and compare. Way too much misinformation going around, but that's what happens when we put complicated issues before the voters.

  2. "Note to self: Making sh*t up is a valuable research technique. Must use it more often."

    Spoken like an aspiring AEI fellow.

  3. The problem is that advocates of Prop. 19 are presenting what should be an issue of individual freedom– the right to ingest what you want and to have fun, as long as it does not injure others– as an issue of empirical data over what would happen if we legalize drugs. That is the prohibitionists' ground of the argument.

    All sorts of things occur because we have legal tobacco and alcohol too. And unlike marijuana, those drugs harm others. And yet we don't sit around thinking about how we really should ban tobacco or go back to prohibition because of the harmful effects. We understand that the right of people to enjoy these substances and have fun compels us to keep them legal even though it results in some harm.

    So here's a substance that is less harmful than alcohol and tobacco, and we are talking about how addictive it allegedliy is and how big a cash crop it is? Who cares! It should be legal for the same reason that vibrators should be legal– because recreational activities should be legal.

  4. ¨Making sh*t up is a valuable research technique..¨ Isn´t this so in fact? In a rational discussion, you should be able to seed the process with a random proposition and then get (as near as possible) to the truth by a dialectic walk. This can go wrong if you get caught up in an endless suboptimal loop (as in arguments with Tea Pertiers about the deficit), or alternatively if there are several local optima. The latter fits the case of competing academically respectable viewpoints on anything. If the top of my ivory tower is actually lower than yours, I´m unlikely to admit it any time soon. Hence the persistence of Chicago enconomics.

  5. A great (if fictional) example of the technique is described by Mark Twain in Roughing It — google the phrase "clean, pure, manufactured history" for a quick route to the relevant chapter.

  6. Dilan Esper: Exactly. Arguing about the harm that marijuana does concedes the prohibitionists' point that harmful substances should be banned. This is utter crap. Adults should be permitted to ingest whatever they wish and to sell it, regulated and taxed of course, to other willing adults.

  7. I know someone who's a huge pothead who insists that he'll still be able to sell his weed for a lot of money even if Prop 19 passes. Apparently he missed the part of Economics 101 where they talked about supply and demand. Of course, he's high all the time anyway. 🙂

  8. Well what do you think the impact of prop 19 be on violent crime in CA, Mexico, and the rest of the USA?

    I think it unquestionably will decrease crime for the following reasons:

    California MJ will be grown free of state and local interference by businessmen rather than criminals.

    Businessmen are happy in this economy for a 10% annual return on investment. Right MJ production is much higher because of legal risk of criminal activity.

    Thus investment in MJ production in CA will greatly increase and price will decline. The profitability of the violent mass smuggling of MJ from Mexico will disappear, as will turf wars for those who distribute it.

    Police resources and prison space will also be redirected away from MJ control.

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