Who smokes pot a lot?

My discussion with Brian Lehrer of WNYC.

Today was the first of a series of five weekly interviews on cannabis policy with Brian Lehrer of WNYC (New York public radio). We discussed the demographics of heavy smoking and other topics. Audio at the jump.

Lehrer did a better job than I did, but on the other hand it was 10:40 in New York but only 7:40 in Olympia, where I’ve been working this week. There seem to be alternative origin myths for the term “Sour Diesel” as applied to cannabis; any reader with expert knowledge is invited to share it.

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: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com

6 thoughts on “Who smokes pot a lot?”

  1. The guy who called in was 100% right on Sour Diesel.

    Still, Professor Kleiman, this is much less grave error than the one in your Dartmouth lecture where you said that e-cigarettes used the same technology as crack pipes which was crazy.

    1. So enlighten me. External heat is applied to vaporize a chemical to be inhaled. Other than the source of the external heat, what’s the difference?

      1. Comparing E-cigarettes and crack pipes is disingenuous at best.
        A crack pipe is a piece of hollow glass into which a semi-pure crystalline substance is placed. It is heated with a lighter or torch and the entire crystal is melted, vaporized and inhaled. It is attractive to addicts because of the overwhelming rush it produces. An E-Cigarette holds a nicotine or cannabinoid infused glycol solution, by drawing on the E-Cig, a heating element is activated and compounds which vaporize at a fairly low temp are inhaled. It is easily titrated, not a overwhelming rush. It is much like smoking a joint without all the acrid smoke from burning plant material. The glycol and flavoring mostly remain in the ‘sponge’ or reservoir.
        There IS a current fad in the cannabis culture right now called ‘doing dabs’. This activity much more resembles crack pipe usage, both in hardware and intensity of rush. See this video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h_Tb3yuFE50 I think you’ll have to admit the difference between discreetly drawing on an E-cig and this activity is dramatic.
        Using your comparison, anything that involves fire and inhalation is like a crack pipe…is that REALLY your intent?

  2. I don’t know why they named it that, but Sour Diesel is an accurate description of the aroma of the stuff offered to me.

  3. Too bad they allow callers to interrupt the interview.
    Which lead me this thought: Listening to the average American voice an opinion is worse than having a twitter feed interrupt the right hand margin of a web page.
    At least one can ignore a Twitter feed. But having to sit thru anecdotal dummies telling Lehrer and Kleiman what they think? I only lasted 1 minute of that…

  4. Before ascribing too much significance to the statistic that 60% of pot user consumption is by those with a high school education (or less), I want to know the response on that question when asked about beer.

    And really, does anyone’s human rights — yes, I do consider access to marijuana a human right — credibility, or access to one’s intoxicating substance of choice depend on one’s demographics? Should government make policy based on a paternalistic view that some folks are overly prone to use marijuana?

    In any case, such statistics on use often reflect the cultural biases of their collectors as much as the habits of those under study. A useful corrective to that sort of tunnel vision is “Cannabis in Costa Rica: A Study of Chronic Marihuana Use,” Wm E. Carter, ed. (Philadelphia: Institute for the Study of Human Issues, 1980). Carter and his colleagues note “the risk of becoming entrapped in the narrow confines of our own cultural viewpoints…” Somewhat surprising themselves, the researchers found that “job stability and heavy marihuana use go hand in glove…” I’ve heard of worse results and my personal experience, even though I’m now actually trained to be a policy wonk, substantiates such a finding.

    While the 2013 US isn’t the 1970s Costa Rica, the cultural gaps between researchers and those they study is often just as great. Pot smokers are no more in need of saving by government bureaucrats or policy wonks here and now as there and then. I’d suggest being far more cautious about such stereotyping, as it isn’t necessarily determinative as it may sound. Working class people may smoke more for a lot of reasons, mostly having little to do with seeking to simply engage in what some believe to be chronic marijuana heavy use. In almost every case, we know they’re better off with pot than with alcohol, whatever their motivation.

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