Cannabis News NORML - Working to Reform Marijuana Laws
  The Marijuana Exception
Posted by CN Staff on April 20, 2012 at 16:55:11 PT
By Beau Kilmer 
Source: Wall Street Journal 

cannabis USA -- Discussions about legalizing marijuana should start with a few basic truths.

One is that legalization would save the law-enforcement and social costs of arresting hundreds of thousands of adults each year. (Most proposals would keep marijuana illegal for those under 21.) Another is that pot's underground economy—estimated at $15 billion to $30 billion annually—would be largely wiped out if marijuana were legalized throughout the country. Finally, it is clear that legalization would greatly decrease price and, therefore, increase the number of both recreational and heavy marijuana users.

Beyond these facts, the ramifications get extremely murky. Being honest about the uncertainties involved is the price of admission to any serious discussion about marijuana legalization.

When my RAND colleagues and I tried to project the consequences if California passed a 2010 marijuana-legalization ballot initiative, we started by calculating the cost of producing marijuana in residential grow-houses, a likely production venue if the drug were legalized at the state level. We calculated that the pretax price for high-potency, indoor-grown marijuana could drop by more than 80%. If national legalization allowed producers to switch to greenhouses and outdoor farming, the prices would drop even further: A "joint" might cost pennies rather than dollars.

Such a huge drop in price would certainly increase use. But no one knows by how much because no modern country has experienced prices that low. Taxes could not come close to maintaining prohibition-level prices without being undercut by a "gray" market. Indeed, tobacco-tax evasion is already a serious issue in the U.S., where the average state tax is a few dollars a pack, and a pack of cigarettes weighs just about an ounce. By comparison, an ounce of high-quality marijuana now sells for about $300.

Another big unknown is how marijuana legalization would influence alcohol consumption. It is natural to assume that pot would serve as a substitute (higher use would decrease heavy drinking), but it is equally likely that it would be a complement (higher use would increase heavy drinking). The scientific literature on this is inconclusive.

That uncertainty is crucial because heavy drinking is much more common—and much more harmful—than heavy marijuana use. Alcohol is strongly connected with violence, traffic fatalities and chronic disease. Even a small decrease in heavy drinking could outweigh any social costs from legalizing marijuana. By the same token, even a small increase in heavy drinking could outweigh any benefits of legalization.

Similar questions can be asked about how greater marijuana use might affect the use of "hard" drugs like cocaine and heroin. The debate about "gateway" effects when young people experiment with marijuana is bitter and unsettled, but claims of a pharmacological link to the use of other drugs seem to have been overplayed in the past.

One thing is certain. Nothing we do about marijuana would dramatically reduce the harms associated with the larger "war on drugs." The market for hard drugs is much larger in dollars, in violence and in the number of offenders behind bars. If these are the critical problems, then marijuana legalization is a sideshow, not the main event.

—Dr. Kilmer is co-director of the RAND Corporation's Drug Policy Research Center and co-author (with Jonathan P. Caulkins, Angela Hawken and Mark A.R. Kleiman) of "Marijuana Legalization: What Everyone Needs to Know" (forthcoming).

Source: Wall Street Journal (US)
Author: Beau Kilmer
Published: April 20, 2012
Copyright: 2012 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.
Contact: wsj.ltrs@wsj.com
Website: http://www.wsj.com/
URL: http://drugsense.org/url/vmwjUZiZ

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Comment #6 posted by museman on April 24, 2012 at 06:36:23 PT
'basic truths?'
"One is that legalization would save the law-enforcement and social costs of arresting hundreds of thousands of adults each year."

There is definitely a 'social' cost, in lives, futures, and divisive polarization, but what exactly is the 'cost' to 'law enforcement?' Don't they get wages? Or do they get 'special duty pay' for busting people of color, hippies, and other cannabis users?

"Another is that pot's underground economy—estimated at $15 billion to $30 billion annually—would be largely wiped out if marijuana were legalized throughout the country."

Pot does not have an economy, its people who have that. And the 'underground' is a culture, not an 'economy.' And it's only underground because prohibition serves the wealthy elite class of rulers, keeping empowerment out of the hands of regular people. And the 'estimate' $15 - $30 billion?

Man I know, and have known a lot of growers, both 'legal' and not so legal, and yeah some of them have a wide screen TV and a lot of them have new vehicles, but I have yet to meet one who would even barely be classified as a 'millionaire' by mid-twentieth century standards let alone these days.

I suspect they get their 'estimates' the same way they get the rest of their 'Truth' - by pulling it out some lawyers ass.

LEGALIZE FREEDOM

[ Post Comment ]

 
Comment #5 posted by observer on April 22, 2012 at 11:41:37 PT
We Always/Never Arrest People for Pot
re: "One thing is certain. Nothing we do about marijuana would dramatically reduce the harms associated with the larger "war on drugs." .... co-director of the RAND Corporation's"

Big whopper.

The arresting, jailing, and slaving of people using cannabis as an excuse - the war on (people involved with) pot - is the lynchpin of the "war on drugs".

Remove the ability for police to arrest and jail people for pot, and the rest of the "war on drugs" can't justify the outlay of police salaries and overtime. Marijuana is the lynchpin of the war on drugs.

Prohibitionists can't have it both ways: if pot arrests and jailing people for pot is so insignificant, then why do prohibitionists lie like the devil, twisting and turning to use every barely plausible excuse, to keep the marijuana-to-jail pipeline full?

They're talking out of both of sides of their dual faces.

They can't have it both ways. If nobody never ever goes to jail for (watch the weaseling) "marijuana possession" (because prosecutors know to pile on school zone charges, paraphernalia charges, escalator clauses, etc.) then why the fuss? Since nobody is arrested or imprisoned for pot - then why the charade? "The" law in the hands of corrupt US police/prosecutors is like putty.

[ Post Comment ]
 
Comment #4 posted by afterburner on April 21, 2012 at 11:23:05 PT
Corporations - Environmental & Social Degradation
The Corporation: The Corporation: The Pathology of Commerce 1 of 3 February 25, 2004 [still relevant in light of Citizens United US Supreme Court decision & a possible corporate takeover of cannabis distribution.] http://ww3.tvo.org/video/171820/corporation-pathology-commerce-1-3

[ Post Comment ]
 
Comment #3 posted by Dr Ganj on April 21, 2012 at 09:32:33 PT
The End
I meant to say the end of prohibition from the US. There are just too many forces keeping it illegal. I wish that weren't the case, but it's true. It's going to take a lot more than another vote in Colorado, or the state of Washington to change things.

[ Post Comment ]
 
Comment #2 posted by Dr Ganj on April 21, 2012 at 09:14:27 PT
More Reasons
Here are more reasons why getting cannabis legal is so difficult to achieve. Back in 2010, California's Prop 19 was narrowly defeated because cannabis club owners, and many growers did not want their cash cow to stop producing, so they voted against it! So, now we have Colorado, and the state of Washington in a similar situation this November. Not only do we have the petrochemical companies, the pharmaceutical industry, alcohol lobby, and the mammoth prison industrial complex against legal cannabis, we even have clubs owners and growers who also have a strong interest in keeping this multi-beneficial plant illegal. Read this: http://www.businessinsider.com/why-medical-marijuana-stores-are-fighting-legalization-2012-4

So, I don't think the prohibition of marijuana is going to come from the US. I think it will come from Mexico, and Latin America, where tens of thousands of lives have been lost, and corruption is so destructive to their societies, they will be the ones to demand, and effect change. How many more thousands must die horrific deaths before we see prohibition is far more damaging than the plants we are trying to prohibit?

[ Post Comment ]

 
Comment #1 posted by Paint with light on April 20, 2012 at 20:44:47 PT
Still not dealing with the facts
"Another big unknown is how marijuana legalization would influence alcohol consumption. It is natural to assume that pot would serve as a substitute (higher use would decrease heavy drinking), but it is equally likely that it would be a complement (higher use would increase heavy drinking). The scientific literature on this is inconclusive."

The fact is states that have liberalized their laws have seen a decrease in alcohol use and drunk driving.

"The debate about "gateway" effects when young people experiment with marijuana is bitter and unsettled,......."

Whenever someone holds onto the gateway theory you know which side they are on, and it isn't on the side of truth.

'Nothing we do about marijuana would dramatically reduce the harms associated with the larger "war on drugs."'

Tell that to the thousands that are harmed by cannabis arrests and prosecution and the patients that need it as medicine.

Legal like alcohol, the only true first step towards real freedom.

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