Shorter Steven Duke

If you assume away the disadvantages of marijuana legalization, marijuana legalization looks like really a fine idea.

If you assume away the disadvantages of marijuana legalization, marijuana legalization looks like really a fine idea.

A full-text search of Duke’s article discovers no use of the words “addiction,” “abuse,” “dependency,” or “habituation.” Despite the evidence from alcohol and tobacco, Duke flatly asserts that regulated sales will do a better job of preventing access by minors than does outright prohibition.

Alas, Duke’s performance is typical, rather than unusual, for the academic “anti-prohibitionists.” Reverse the sign of the bias and you have a typical drug war handout.

Look: Drug abuse has bad results, and drug abuse is a statistically certain consequence of drug availability. Drug laws, whether straight-up prohibitions or regulations and high taxes, can reduce drug abuse, but they create harms of their own. Anyone not grown-up enough to deal with those two simple facts ought to try some less complicated policy issue, like health care or the Middle East.

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:

60 thoughts on “Shorter Steven Duke”

  1. Perhaps you missed the whole section titled “Arguments for retaining marijuana prohibition” or the subheading, “If marijuana were legal, more people will use more of it.” I can see why though; it was buried on page one in the table of contents.

    1. No, I didn’t miss it. I marveled at its breathtaking dishonesty. Duke simply assumes that massive increases in use won’t cause any harm.

      1. How I read it was: Any potential harm created by legalization could not be any worse than the harm created now.
        Legalization = reduction of current harm and a better world for tomorrow.
        Perhaps. Perhaps, when I see medical marijuana dispensaries all over New Haven, Connecticut or all over the Gold Coast,
        this Yalie will be singing a different tune.

      2. A massive increase in the use of footballs may lead to an increase in head injury.

        It’s irrelevant.

        1. This thread reveals how disjointed this whole discussion is. But we shouldn’t rely on Dan Riffle from MPP to give us unbiased info, anymore than we should rely on Calvina Fay.

  2. “Duke flatly asserts that regulated sales will do a better job of preventing access by minors than does outright prohibition.”

    This seems to be the case with alcohol in most North American jurisdictions. Teens consistently report that cannabis is easier to obtain than beer.
    As you know, tobacco use has been declining for decades, perhaps in part because it is difficult for minors to obtain. Mind you, when a substance is as available as cannabis, availability is largely irrelevant. Gasoline and solvents are easily obtained, but few people huff them. Availability is a red herring.

    “no use of the words “addiction,” “abuse,” “dependency,” or “habituation.””

    Less than 5 per cent of cannabis consumers consume daily. Cannabis is less habituating than video games and gambling. Cannabis is less physically addictive than coffee. Most of those who consume cannabis daily are self-medicating anxiety, stress, ADHD, PTSD, etc. The vast majority eventually quit or cut down on their own with no intervention or help and little discomfort.

    “drug abuse is a statistically certain consequence of drug availability.”

    No. Abuse is a statistically certain consequence of use. However, the proportion of abusers to users is not carved in stone, and what prevents use from becoming abuse is education and social customs and mores, not criminal prohibition. Prohibition makes no distinction between use and abuse. Prohibitions increase the proportion of abusers to users. For example, parents can teach their children how to drink moderately and responsibly from a young age. Not so with cannabis. Prohibition drives a wedge between parents and their children, teachers and students, doctors and patients and the police and their communities. It impedes the evolution of customs and mores. There is every reason to believe that abuse will go down, and less harmful methods of
    ingestion will become more popular, under a legally regulated regime, even if usage rates go up.

    1. I’ve always felt that older “regular people” who smoke would feel more patriotic if they themselves weren’t criminals. Border issues, drones, surveillance, lawNorder, all kinds of threats to a law-abiding smoker.

      1. This is an intangible benefit harder to measure; a pernicious side effect of criminalizing “victimless” behaviour is a greater disrespect for the law. A society that imposes punishments that do not fit the crime becomes increasingly viewed as absurd, and can promote an alienation. When the government puts out ads stating that drug use = support for terrorism, the user is unlikely to stop, but may begin to view himself as more of a creature outside the law. And on the opposite side of the coin, it clearly rankles (some) law enforcement officials to have to arrest (and process the paperwork) on simple users.

        1. Personally, I’ve come to view our government as creatures outside the law.

    2. >Teens consistently report that cannabis is easier to obtain than beer.

      No, they don’t.

      Here’s a good discussion of this whole thing:

      In a Feb. 6, 2013, Providence Journal story about her bill to legalize marijuana, Ajello said that after years of making marijuana illegal, “Lots of studies seem to indicate that minors find it very easy to get marijuana, easier than to get alcohol.”

      . . . . . .

      After we contacted Ajello, we heard from Mason Tvert, an advocate for regulating the use of marijuana rather than prohibiting it. He referred us to various studies.

      But we had already found the annual National Survey of American Attitudes on Substance Abuse, which reports that in each of the past three years, young people reported that it was in fact easier to get alcohol than to get marijuana — the opposite of what Ajello said.

      The most recent edition of that survey, which is conducted by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University, and released in August 2012, said “teens have readier access to alcohol than prescription drugs or marijuana within an hour and within a day.”

      Tvert mentioned the same study, noting that from 2002 through 2009 it found that teens thought it was easier to buy marijuana than beer. But, in 2010, the survey changed the wording of the question, asking teenagers whether it was easier to get marijuana than alcohol — the wording Ajello used.

      The authors of the linked piece go on to cite other studies, all of which have young people saying it’s easier to get alcohol. When they ask which is easier to BUY (not simply to get) they get different responses.

      1. Tvert mentioned the same study, noting that from 2002 through 2009 it found that teens thought it was easier to buy marijuana than beer. But, in 2010, the survey changed the wording of the question, asking teenagers whether it was easier to get marijuana than alcohol.

        If we infer from this that it’s easier for most teens to *get* alcohol than marijuana “within an hour and within a day”, but harder to *buy* it, what does that infer about the level of availability and abuse potential?

      2. Oops. I didn’t mean to post my first comment anonymously.

        Again, I think availability is a red herring.

        “Ever since the MTF study began in 1975, between 81% and 90% of 12th graders each year have said that they could get marijuana fairly easily or very easily if they wanted some. It has been considerably less accessible to younger adolescents. Still, in 2012, 37% of 8th graders, 69% of 10th graders, and 82% of 12th graders reported it as being fairly or very easy to get. It thus seems clear that marijuana has remained highly accessible to the older teens.” – See more at:

        Presumably if a teen is not one of the majority who find cannabis “fairly easy” or “very easy” to obtain, perhaps an 8th grader, they need only identify a teen who is in that majority, perhaps a 12th grader, to score a lid. Cannabis is so available that I doubt a lack of availability is much of a deterrent, certainly not in the long term.

        Mark continues “Duke simply assumes that massive increases in use won’t cause any harm.”

        Massive increases? Where will this massive increase come from? Your theoretical increase in availability? The massive number of abstainers who would like to be chronic potheads but aren’t because they can’t obtain cannabis or they fear arrest? I realize it’s anecdotal, but I’ve never met such an individual.

        Any harm? If cannabis usage rates go up in the long term following legal regulation, (and based on the Dutch experience any increase is likely to be modest and transitory until the novelty wears off), and therefore abuse rates go up, (by no means a certainty if you factor in education, treatment and harm reduction), then there could be an increase in net harm … assuming there isn’t a subsequent reduction in drinking and other drug use.

  3. “Reverse the sign of the bias and you have a typical drug war handout.”

    NO! The drug warriors and the anti-prohibitionists are not symmetrical. There is this little thing called “good faith” that separates their arguments. I skimmed Duke’s piece–it reads like a good legal brief. He maximizes his points and minimizes the other sides, but as far as I can see, he tells no lies and has tried to do his homework. The crap I see from the drug warriors is utterly mendacious.

    There is a big difference between tendentiousness (the stock in trade of honest advocates) and mendacity. Democracy has a chance of working with the former. The latter corrodes all that it touches. There is no symmetry between legalizers and warriors. The legalizers don’t have a monopoly of the truth: Mark is right here. But the warriors are doing their damndest to monopolize all lies.

    1. I think you are probably correct that most of the legalization boosters who lie do not know they are lying. They are repeating things they read on the interweb rather than acting in bad faith. I am less sure than you that this ignorance is something to brag about, though.

  4. I agree, a good sober marijuana policy would be quite a bit more convoluted than any policy proposal for the Middle East, or for health care, in general, for that matter!

    Pass the hooka!

  5. “..Duke flatly asserts that regulated sales will do a better job of preventing access by minors than does outright prohibition. ..”

    Well, when I was a lad in high school, it was easier for me to get marijuana than it was to get booze. People who had liquor stores had expensive licenses from the State of Calif which they could lose if caught selling to minors. People who sold marijuana had… hunger for cash.

    1. Wouldn’t you imagine that [apparent] difference to be multiply determined, not due only to laws/regulations?

      People who sold marijuana also had … wares with higher value-to-weight, potency-to-weight, value-to-volume, and potency-to-volume ratios than booze. Just the attributes you want in something you’re selling on the sly.

    2. Well, when I was a lad in high school, it was easier for me…

      So begins countless anecdotes that muddle public policy debates, no matter what words comes after. Why is it so hard for some people to get through their head that their experience as a child does not necessarily represent holy, generalizable truth? Narcissism maybe?

      1. Good point.

        Mind you, I think one of the reasons drug education under prohibition has been useless or counter-productive is that the so-called facts don’t jive with the first-hand experiences of adolescents. For example, if you tell teens that cannabis causes “addiction, abuse, dependency and
        habituation,” about 19 out of 20 will tell you that this hasn’t been their experience, and/or that their consuming cousins, siblings, parents, friends and acquaintances typically use it moderately and responsibly. If on the other hand we say that a small percentage of cannabis consumers consume obsessively, (in much the same way that a small percentage of stamp collectors get carried away), and that some small percentage of them are not self-medicating, then it will ring true and they might take us seriously.

  6. Mark,
    I can see your point. On the other hand, 40 years of use and association with those who do use marijuana suggests that marijuana abuse will be small potatoes in the future as a public health issues, as it has been to this point. And it’s also taught me there is a very limited scope for government action to alter human interaction.

    This is certainly the case for all present users, those in CO and WA now excluded. We’re the guerrilla army of cannabis. Legal sanctions? Pfffft.

    Really. We’re going to do pretty much what we have been. Stay cool. Stay below the radar. Live by the code Dylan enumerated — To live outside the law, you must be honest. There will just be a lot more flexibility and ground we can cover. Access to the Eviiil Weed? Yeah, that might be improved, but really any “abuse” will simply amount to being picky about which herbage (like vintage, just for weed) we prefer.

    Now, admittedly, there are millions of people who are “weed-curious” yet hesitant to break the law, have never tried it, but will be willing to explore their Inner Hippie on legality day or after. And it is true that a few people overdo things currently, which has a sharply lower impact than say alcohol or tobacco, thus the skepticism of many current heads that abuse can at times color our use of cannabis. Between panic attacks and the usual human statistical carnage, no doubt there will be new customers for the therapeutical armies of the night.

    However, this is also America, where large parts of the populace are prone to ignore government and get on with their lives regardless of what legal position the government takes on factors in their lives with varying degrees of legality they hold dear — pot, sex & gender, guns, religion, moonshine, fast cars, poker…

    That suggests, along with marijuana’s relatively benign abuse curve, that the scope of the “problem marijuana users” problem will be limited and addressable. No need for building Marijuana Asylums, etc, I’m certain most here will agree. But we also need to be careful not to create needless therapeutical certainties. We do not want to replace the current questionable certainties that occur differentially along the law-enforcement/treatment axis with a new set that runs along the lines of treatment/regulation.

    I’d argue there’s already a natural socio-environmental ecology that has successfully existed outside the law for generations. Better for any sort of regulation to elevate its successes and shore up its weaknesses than to start with a blank sheet informed mostly by those who seem to feel some sense of “loss” if marijuana is legal. The public interest should be uplifted, but I get nervous when public policy comes down to the state attempting to take the place of my dealer. Mine could be replaced, but he’s faithful within the existing constraints of illegal operation. I would like a lot of things out of legalization, probably too many to be true, but I suggest we should all want something that is attractive to the millions of otherwise law-abiding heads if we really do intend to bring this thing into the light of day with all the public benefits that potentially has. We must be careful we don’t poison that well before we draw the bucket up.

  7. Anonymous the First, at 12:36 pretty much nails all points. I think Mark K is showing signs of conservatism that should come with responsibility, BUT, getting a bit too reactionary.
    Then to caution us all : I’m a 45+ year user, and the new pot is truly strong. But watch for the newest stuff : “earwax”. “bee pollen”, whatever it’s called – butane separated THC. It is OVER 70% THC. IF there is ever a THC fatality (snark here, I hope!), this stuff will be involved!

  8. Mark, as you’ve mentioned before, the extent to which increased marijuana abuse represents a net harm to public health depends on how much of this increase is the result of legal marijuana serving as a substitute for alcohol or illicit drugs. I am curious as to what data source(s) you will employ in determining the effects of I-502’s passage on aggregate levels of drug abuse in Washington. Do you consider the SAMHSA Treatment Episode Data Set to be a sufficiently accurate yardstick?

  9. Heresy laws, whether straight-up prohibitions or regulations and high taxes, can reduce heresy, but they create harms of their own. Is that the kind of reverse bias you’re talking about?

    Duke’s article has no use of the words “addiction”, “abuse”, “dependency”, or “habituation”, because marijuana users never think in those terms. They don’t need to. Were they to imbibe opiates or their analogs, or speed, or cocaine, or sedatives, these words might arise. They don’t arise for psychedelics and empathogens, either. The exception for marijuana usually involves some hapless person under duress of legal sanctions, someone who tells the mindless inquisitor what the inquisitor wants to hear about marijuana, or some other demon. Or they’re looking to palm off their guilt onto a material object. Otherwise, as a relapsed heretic, they’re likely to get burned.

    And anyone not grown-up enough to deal with more than two simple facts needs a refresher course in scientific epistemology. Or, that person might consider reading Bart Kosko’s book, Neural Networks and Fuzzy Systems: A Dynamical Systems Approach to Machine Intelligence, or some of his less technical works. With these you can learn that there are more than two sides to every question.

  10. “Duke’s article has no use of the words “addiction”, “abuse”, “dependency”, or “habituation”, because marijuana users never think in those terms. They don’t need to.”

    Hmm. Since we’re basing all our arguments on anecdote, the anecdote I will use is that David Sedaris discussed in, I think was _When You Are Engulfed in Flames_, his marijuana lifetime experience. He made a number if points which account against what you are claiming. These include very little exposure to get started, a strong feeling of addiction (meaning a long eventual struggle to quit), and gateway drug effects (to crystal meth and to tobacco).

    1. David Sedaris is a comedic writer, not a scientist. And the gateway theory is bogus—it is not logical, nor is it science. The gateway argument was disposed of a long time ago by the scientific community.

      If a biomarker for marijuana addiction shows up as it has for morphine and cocaine, then it may be possible to go beyond the anecdotal with some hard evidence for pot addiction. Given the minimal number of anecdotal references to marijuana addiction in popular literature, however, I’m not holding my breath. No one has yet tried to write about marijuana the way William S. Burroughs wrote about heroin and being a junkie. It should also be noted that ‘addiction’, as a concept, has changed over the past several decades to better encompass marijuana.

      The true believers in drug prohibition want to believe that marijuana is addictive. They want to believe it leads to an instant attraction to heroin. From the beginning, prohibitionists have always believed the worst anecdotes they hear about marijuana, that it causes violence, the rape of white women, and so forth. The real objection to pot, a taboo on just getting high, is too weak an argument to be useful as a justification for arresting people.

      The problem of prohibition emerges because most prohibitionists reside and operate within a belief culture, with empiricism being labeled the enemy at every turn. They often remain true to their basic nature, which tends to be deeply rooted in superstitions and religious hysteria. Within the context of faith, the non-religious tend to think of prohibition as a bad joke, and not worth pursuing. If the United States were a nation of atheists, many of the current forms of drug prohibition would not exist, and this fact speaks volumes about legitimate motives for drug enforcement.

      1. Good points. I’d add that most prohibitionists are knowledgeable about how alcohol works, but ignorant about cannabis, so they assume that cannabis works the same way as alcohol. Hence the emphasis on “marijuana dui” – which is an absurd concept to anyone familiar with the regulating effects of cannabis.

        This is a bigger issue IMHO than recognized – the WA LCB people are alcohol people, and see the world through that prism. With Kleiman’s pandering to their point of view, how on earth will they come up with a reasonable regulatory regime?

  11. I am completely puzzled by Marks criticism. Is he now disputing the wisdom of legalization or is it the way liberals go about eating each other whe there’s nothing better to do?

    1. I think he’s playing to the gallery – of prohibitionists. He’s being paid by the State of Washington Liquor Control Board to advise them on implementing I-502: the regulations on legal production and distribution of cannabis. And the one thing that distinguishes I-502 is that it had something for everybody: taxes galore for the politicians, a presumptive dui for the police and courts, and continued prohibition for under-21’s. It wouldn’t have passed, IMHO, unless thee beneficiaries of prohibition had a continued gravy train, however unrealistic.

      Kleiman gets this – and IMHO is pandering to his audience. Otherwise how would he continue to have a gravy train to ride?

      What surprised me was the dismissiveness (almost bitchiness) of his response to what I read as a balanced and well-researched article. Perhaps defending his turf? He is an academic, after all!

      1. You got it right …I believe his snark is proprietary. He wants to be THE authority.

    2. Mark has, to the best of my knowledge, always been critical of legalization and has always seemed to view it as a lesser evil, not an unalloyed good.

      Also, in my world, it’s perfectly normal for people to disagree (even publicly) about policy issues even if they are approximately on the same side of the political center. Politics is not religion, there are more than two valid opinions for every subject, and echo chambers can be decidedly unhealthy for public discourse. This is not “liberals beating up each other”, this is just the normal state of human affairs for dealing with any non-trivial problem.

      1. His comment looks more like a hit job than a public disagreement about a policy issue. He says: “‘Reverse the sign of the bias and you have a typical drug war handout”. This is hardly a reasoned response – more like an insulting dismissal. Why? Because a “typical drug war handout” is typically a pastiche of lies and half-truths in support of an unsupportable prohibition.

        Kleiman was chosen because he walks the line between prohibition and legalization. It’s a profitable niche for him, apparently.

        He may be a liberal but he doesn’t want to rip up his meal ticket.

        1. Well, I believe that he is a tenured professor at UCLA, one of the most prestigious public universities in the world
          and most likely lives a quite comfortable life as an academic and scholar.

          So, ad hominem by an apparent pro-cannabis person is gauche, but expected.

          1. I was trying to figure out why his response to a well-reasoned paper from a tenured law professor from Yale was so dismissive. My conclusion was that it was because he didn’t want to bite the hand that feeds him.

            Your response is a classic argument to authority – and an accusation of ad hominem argument, containing an ad hominem!

            I may be gauche, but at least my arguments are internally consistent.

          2. May I suggest that he was dismissive simply because it wasn’t a good paper? The section on “Arguments For Retaining Marijuana Prohibition” seems to be extremely lacking.

            Also, I’m not sure why the author being a tenured law professor is relevant when talking about Marijuana legalization as a public policy issue rather than a legal matter (if you want to make the case that he’s an expert based on his publication history or other grounds rather than his being a legal scholar, that’s a different argument).

          3. @katja – “The section on “Arguments For Retaining Marijuana Prohibition” seems to be extremely lacking.” – for a good reason – there are not many good arguments for retaining cannabis prohibition. And Prof Kleiman’s criticism (“A full-text search of Duke’s article discovers no use of the words “addiction,””) reveals the false arguments he was looking for – since cannabis is not addictive.

            I suppose you may be right that a law professor has no business weighing in on a public policy issue (only the domain of public policy profs like Kleiman, right?). I think most attorneys would disagree with you, as public policy is implemented and enforced through laws and by lawyers, not public policy profs as you seem to think.

          4. divadab, by lacking I mean that I’m not sure how it made it through whatever refereeing process the OLR has without a lot of editing.

            (1) It cites decriminalization in Portugal as not increasing Cannabis usage. There are two problems with that. One is that decriminalization of possession is not the same as legalization, so it is not clear what you can infer from that. Second, lifetime Cannabis usage in Portugal has been reported to actually have increased; now, that may be because of more experimentation than actual long term usage, but at the very least it requires elaboration.
            (2) It has an “it is likely …” statement to make an important counterpoint without evidence or citation. This may pass muster in advocacy, in science it’s not really acceptable.

            These are just a couple of examples that I immediately noticed, but which should have immediately raised red flags during any peer review/editing process worth its salt.

            More importantly, my point is not that you cannot make the case against Marijuana prohibition; my point is that in an article that wants to be scientific, you have to make the case; you cannot make short-cuts. Op-eds aren’t science.

            When you say that there are not many good arguments for retaining Marijuana prohibition, note that this is not a binary either/or thing, where you can have only full legalization or full prohibition. There are plenty of intermediate options, such as Netherlands-style decriminalization or limited “grow your own” legalization. Many of the problems with prohibition apply only to a full-scale US-style war on drugs approach and can be mitigated.

            Any argument against prohibition must in particular address the issue of dependency and abuse, as well as the effect on minors. Note that just because Marijuana may not create a physical dependency does not mean that a potential psychological dependency need not be addressed; it’s perfectly fine to argue that it’s (comparatively) harmless, but you don’t just get to skip over the issue in a scientific paper.

            Consider the not unlikely scenario that under full legalization, we may see Big Marijuana developing as a form of business and taking a page out of Big Tobacco’s playbook: create a dependency in minors and then cash in on that dependency when they become adults (this, I think, is part of the reason why Mark favors a “grow your own” approach to legalization). You need to explain why this either would not happen or why the benefits outweigh the downsides.

            Again, I’m not saying that you cannot make the case, but you have to make the case so that others can reproduce and review your conclusions. Scientific publishing is not the same as op-ed writing; a firm belief cannot replace evidence.

          5. Katja wrote:
            “More importantly, my point is not that you cannot make the case against Marijuana prohibition; my point is that in an article that wants to be scientific, you have to make the case; you cannot make short-cuts. Op-eds aren’t science.”

            I really hope that policy wonks are not projecting the idea that what they do is science. This country has a long history of claiming scientific authority in the service of policy making, when all that was really going on was some politician desperately needed a better excuse that personal or political preference for a policy.

            I can certainly see the case when science is cited in support of policy. In fact, science should inform policy, but in my experience there’s often some fool politician in the way preventing a straight line from science to policy enactment. Policy is just not science — life would be so much simpler.

          6. @katja – I think you’re operating under a misapprehension – that the Oregon Law Review (OLR) is a scientific journal. And your criticism of the article is rooted in this misapprehension. You say “my point is that in an article that wants to be scientific, you have to make the case; you cannot make short-cuts. Op-eds aren’t science.”. Well, an article in a law review isn’t science either. It’s an examination of a legal issue or issues in the form of an essay that examines the evidence and makes an argument to arrive at a conclusion.

            You can attack the arguments – as you did in trying to make the evidence from Portugal irrelevant (unsuccessfully, IMHO) – but to try to apply the rules of a refereed scientific journal to a law review article in order to dismiss its arguments is reaching. Honestly, is that all you’ve got?

          7. divadab, science is an attitude, not a form of publication. The OLR law review may not be a refereed scientific publication; that is not an excuse to make unsupported or incompletely supported claims and pass them off as facts. If you make falsifiable statements about the real world, then you should be expected to be held to the normal standards for scientific inquiry or have your claims dismissed — and deservedly so.

            Scientific methodology begins long before pen is ever put to paper (or keyboard to word processor, these days). It begins when you formulate a hypothesis, when you test it, when you then either accept, refine, or reject it. It’s when you make sure that your results are clear and reproducible. Even if the results were never published, or only in an internal test report, that does not absolve scientists from striving for maximum objectivity that would hold up under peer review even if the peer review never happens.

            This is not just an arbitrary “follow procedure” thing; scientific methodology is designed to minimize both inadvertent and intentional bias; you are not forced to stick to it, but then your research output cannot be trusted not to be bias-infused [1]. Op-eds are cheap and a dime a dozen; actual science is hard and often boring, because dotting i’s and crossing t’s is not very exciting work, but still essential. Life is too short to waste it on circle-squarers.

            Or, more simply: Why should I put stock in the paper, if, as you claim, it isn’t scientific? Absent adherence to scientific principles, what is the source of its supposed credibility? Just that you personally happen to agree with the results?

            As for Portugal, feel free to disagree. However, consider the following: The 1999 ESPAD Survey of 15-16 year olds had a 7% and 3% 30-day prevalence of marijuana or hashish use by boys and girls, respectively; The 2011 ESPAD Survey had the numbers at 11% and 8%, respectively. I.e., the numbers about doubled for girls and increased by 50% for boys. In the same time period, US numbers went from 21% and 14% to 22% and 17%, respectively, a much smaller relative increase. Obviously, marijuana usage by minors is a complicated story, and there are plenty of factors that can play into it, such as inequality, problems with the educational system; for example, Ireland saw a substantial increase in the same time period with no obvious causal connection. But you cannot just claim “[d]ecriminalization … did not lead to significant increases in the usage of marijuana” when there has actually been a significant increase without substantiating why that increase isn’t linked to the decriminalization that happened during the same period (I already noted that lifetime usage of cannabis did increase after decriminalization in Portugal).

            [1] And yes, I know, that there are plenty of problems with it still; the scientific method is a minimum standard, not a guarantor of infallibility.

          8. @katja – ok – so now you’re accepting that the OLR is not a scientific journal as you previously claimed, but they should have a “scientific attitude” and not allow a contributor to “make unsupported or incompletely supported claims and pass them off as facts”. And you give as an example of such an unsubstantiated claim his reference to the Portuguese decriminalization experience.

            You cite stats for youth cannabis use from 1999, fully TWO YEARS prior to decriminalization. Here’s a more relevant stat: “For students in the 7th–9th grades (13–15 years old), the rate decreased from 14.1 percent in 2001 to 10.6 percent in 2006.”. See the difference? This is from a Cato Institute study which you should read in full rather than cherry-picking irrelevant and misleading stats to support your prohibitionist point of view.

            Here’s a link:

          9. No, I’m not saying anything about the OLR. I think a researcher should have a scientific attitude, regardless of where he publishes his research; it’s a matter of basic academic standards. It would be the same if the paper had never found a publisher or if it had been a letter to the editor of the Lower Sandusky Telegraph.

            As for Portugal, you don’t have to convince me [1]. My point was that Steven Duke was making an unsubstantiated statement, not that it cannot possibly be substantiated (I pointed out myself that there are likely multiple causes involved, but that one cannot tell without more analysis). If you make a claim, you have to provide evidence for the truth of the claim, unless it’s absolutely self-evident. Handwaving isn’t evidence.

            I was providing examples of why this paper should have failed in a refereeing process; a grade of “I” is different from a grade of “F”, so to speak, but it tarnishes the conclusion all the same.

            As for me being a prohibitionist, may I suggest that you’re reading me completely wrong? You can’t possibly be more disgusted with the current war on drugs than I am. My irritation is with advocacy on either side being blinded by personal bias and apparently lacking the ability to objectively analyze the situation. I am not willing to sacrifice objectivity to dogma. And I’m also perplexed that you seem to believe that there are only two possible positions, either 100% for legalization or 100% for prohibition.

            [1] By the way, I’m familiar with Greenwald’s Cato paper. But it’s outdated (2009, and he didn’t use any particularly recent sources, either). He chose 2006 as his endpoint when cannabis usage has been on the uptick since; and lifetime usage and annual prevalence had been up in 2007 already. As I said, I personally think there are multiple factors involved. ESPAD data is from 1999 because the surveys are published in four year intervals; it’s gone up since the 2003 survey, too, though more modestly. If you try to claim that the increase happened entirely between 1999-2001, the data doesn’t support your case.

          10. @katja – a few points;
            Where did I say there were only 2 options, complete legalization v. complete prohibition? And why are you so eager to put these words in my mouth? Perhaps because you find it easier to argue with a straw man of your own creation rather than answer specific points? For the record, the current prohibition regime is evil in all its effects, IMHO. And why not completely legalize cannabis? It’s been legal and widely used for all its at least 10,000 year history with humans excpet for the past 70 years. WHy are you so keen on imposing restrictions on the cultivation and use of a non-toxic, non-addictive plant? And whyare you so keen to cast doubt with quibbles about the OLR paper?

            ANd what is your real name? WHo are you sock-puppeting for?

            You are defending Prof Kleiman’s very revealing snark. It reflects badly on Prof Kleiman, despite your desperate efforts to mitigate. DO you make your living pandering to prohibitionists also?

          11. Where did I say there were only 2 options, complete legalization v. complete prohibition? And why are you so eager to put these words in my mouth?

            Because everybody who doesn’t agree with you gets the “prohibitionist” label slapped on them (or gets accused of doing it for money or “sock-puppeting”). It’s not putting words in your mouth when you’re so awfully eager to judge people in black and white.

            ANd what is your real name? WHo are you sock-puppeting for?

            Say, conspiracy theorist much? I just had a bad case of this, but I think I’m finally getting over it.

            I’m sorry that I don’t qualify as a true believer in your eyes, but I think I’ll survive. 🙂 Good luck on your mission.

      2. ” there are more than two valid opinions for every subject”

        Impossible. There is only one valid opinion regarding restricting the liberty of others – it’s wrong.

  12. from a tenured law professor from Yale…Your response is a classic argument to authority

    1. I was answering an argument from authority. My prof has equal authority to your prof. Neener neener. Thanks for noticing.

  13. Mark Kleiman: “Look: Drug abuse has bad results, and drug abuse is a statistically certain consequence of drug availability. Drug laws, whether straight-up prohibitions or regulations and high taxes, can reduce drug abuse, but they create harms of their own. Anyone not grown-up enough to deal with those two simple facts ought to try some less complicated policy issue, like health care or the Middle East.”

    Mark Kleiman on Megan ‘My Calculator has Gastritis’ McArdle: (

    1. I don’t understand the “my calculator has gastritis” taunt. Care to elaborate?

  14. What the hell does ‘drug availability’ actually mean anyway and why would more of it lead to an increase in drug dependence?

    Mark, how do you explain the enormous decline in tobacco use? Has the ‘availability’ of tobacco been reduced? I’ve passed about a dozen shops that sell it on my way to work today. Hard to imagine a drug more ‘available’ than tobacco and yet there has been a significant decline in tobacco dependence.

    “drug abuse is a statistically certain consequence of drug availability.”

    Drug abuse is a certain consequence of both lawful and unlawful availability, why state the blindingly obvious?

  15. I don’t understand why “abuse” keeps coming up in discussions of marijuana use other than to dismiss it as of no relevance. The percentage of people who “abuse” marijuana, by which they must possibly mean those who smoke it all day every day, cannot be but a fraction of those who do likewise with alcohol or any other habit forming activity that impedes their ability to be productive citizens. Surely playing sudoku six hours a day must constitute”abuse” by those standards.

    1. The prohibitionists just throw out whatever they can grab to maintain their profitable sinecures. Did you ever notice that all the people who advocate against cannabis legalization somehow make money from prohibition? From the “Drug Czar” (Gad how I hate that moniker – this is a republic with no king but G-d yet we have nothing but Czars and such parading around on our nickel in that cesspool of corruption that is DC, the red whore) on down, a bunch of scurrying defenders of their jobs oppressing people in the name of the “war on (some) drugs”. This is the real abuse – abuse of power, abuse of the Constitution, abuse of human rights, abuse of the truth, all for vanity and corruption. The sickness at the heart of the empire, just like the sickness at the heart of the ROman empire.

      1. Divadab,I basically agree with your snark but its spring and time to smell the flowers and plant my veggies. Like you say this crap has been going on since we’ll before the Romans. Are people born with differing amounts of greed genes? Are there cultures in the world of more than two hundred people where greed and selfishness are not a constant scourge?

        1. Yup – I sort of got sucked into this one and I do have much better things to do outdoors. I don;t disagree that greed and self-dealing have a long history – but granting people license to oppress and dispossess and lock up non-criminals is the hallmark of totalitarianism. Cannabis prohibition is our very own zombie relic of the fascism of the thirties and fifties and seventies. The costs have been astronomical (with our fucking money) and the effects have been uniformly bad. It hasn;t even reduced usage. It’s a totally evil policy, makes no sense from any rational perspective other than its unstated purpose – to give the government a stick to beat up “undesirable elements” (brown people, hippies, anti-war protesters, etc.).

          Enjoy the sun – Hail Helios!

          1. I am convinced by divadab’s many comments here that Kleiman’s post was on the money.

  16. Legalization of marijuana has been a topic of discussion for how long now? As for as long as the arguments for pro and con have gone on, the medical community just kept out of the discussion, because it knows better than to get into politics. Many doctors did not enter the profession for the salaries, they went to med school because they really do care. And for the doctors in New Jersey, they finally have their say on this topic.

    While New Jersey’s infamy grows with a Republican governor who is able to tell jokes with great timing on Saturday Night Light and give hugs to liberal minded Democrat rock star “The Boss”, my little home state has one more thing to add to its collection of eccentricity, legal medical marijuana. The efficacy of the cannabis compound called Cannibidiol for aggressive cancers were discovered in 2012 in San Francisco. ( Most people don’t know that it is harvested in Egg Harbor, New Jersey, and the crop has a price around $300 an ounce, and almost half of the price goes to the federal government.( The uses of this little plant surprised everyone in New Jersey, because it can be used as part of cancer treatment, not just pain management. New Brunswick(home of Rutgers), Summit and Denville have oncology doctors who have been registered to work with medical marijuana. New Jersey’s government website lists its uses. (

  17. “Drug laws, whether straight-up prohibitions or regulations and high taxes, can reduce drug abuse, but they create harms of their own. ”

    I agree wholeheartedly. That’s why we gotta get rid of all the drug laws.

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