The marijuana industry as a policy player

The politics of legalized cannabis would be complicated by the presence of a new legal industry.

Keith is right that marijuana legalization would create a new player in the political pulling and hauling over marijuana policy: the newly legal industry. The industry would, as he notes, have a strong interest in opposing rules that would reduce the volume of sales: in particular, to oppose any effective steps to discourage heavy use or to prevent use by minors.

That’s not quite the same as saying that the industry would oppose all regulation: incumbent firms would be expected to try to use regulations to stifle competition by preventing new entrants from starting up.

We already have an example of this: the industry that has grown up around the purportedly medical use of marijuana has become a brake on the political movement for legalizing production and sale for explicitly non-medical use. There’s nothing the “medical marijuana” operators – both growers and retailers – want less than the price collapse that would come with full legalization.

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:

3 thoughts on “The marijuana industry as a policy player”

  1. “Non-medical use” is nothing more than people using marijuana as a FAR safer alternative to alcohol. Alcohol kills 80,000 people every year in the U.S. while marijuana kills none, and we could prevent a LOT of the violence, disease and harm currently caused by alcohol by allowing people to substitute marijuana for alcohol. It’s disgraceful that the “medical marijuana operators” would stand in the way of reducing alcohol’s harm just because it’ll threaten their bottom line!

    American taxpayers are being forced to pay $40 Billion a year for a prohibition that causes 10,000 brutal murders & 800,000 needless arrests each year, but which doesn’t even stop CHILDREN getting marijuana. After seventy-five years of prohibition, it’s obvious that the federal marijuana prohibition causes FAR more harm than good and must END! Drug Dealers Don’t Card, Supermarkets Do.

  2. We do have experience with alcohol and tobacco. Alcohol is more relevant in terms of an example – and, yes, for PR reasons many industry representatives have agreed to efforts that discourage excess consumption. It’s not as if history provides us with absolutely no analogies – for example, the behavior of the beer industry after prohibition. It’s irritating to see these fantasies about dark consequences uninformed by data that is actually available and that might actually persuade someone (maybe even the author!)

  3. Isn’t it ironic that by legalising the marihuana market the US could potentially deliver a double whammy to Latin American countries?

    On the one hand, the US War on Drugs policy has turned on its head the relationship between supply and demand: stop the supply and the demand will disappear. By so doing, the US has transferred the lion’s share of the costs of controlling the domestic demand to drug producing and transit countries, among them Latin American ones.

    On the other hand, if history is anything to go by, the legalisation of marijuana in the US will most likely be something akin to full blown commercialisation, not only domestically but in due course internationally as well. I do not think it is too outrageous to think that should marijuana become legal in the US, it is only a matter of time before we see the US calling for sanctions on countries that limit importation of US marijuana.

    Gart Valenc
    Twitter: @gartvalenc

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