How to Legalize Pot

Marijuana! (Photo credit: JohnathanLobel)


The NY Times recently had an Op-Ed based on an interview with Mark Kleiman about his plan for implementing Washington’s new pot policy. (They voted to legalize it last fall.):


If you read the proposal Kleiman’s team submitted to Washington State, you may be a little boggled by the complexities of turning an illicit herb into a regulated, safe, consumer-friendly business. Among the things on the to-do list: certifying labs to test for potency and contamination. (Pot can contain, among other nasty things, pesticides, molds and salmonella.) Devising rules on labeling, so users know what they’re getting. Hiring inspectors, to make sure the sellers comply. Establishing limits on advertising, because you don’t want allowing to become promoting. And all these rules must account not just for smoking but for pot pastries, pot candies, pot-infused beverages, pot lozenges, pot ice cream, pot vapor inhalers.

One of the selling points of legalization is that states can take a cut of what will be, according to estimates, a $35 billion to $45 billion industry and earmark some of these new tax revenues for good causes. It’s the same tactic used to win public approval of lotteries — and with the same danger: that some worthy government function comes to depend on creating more addicts. And how do you divvy up the revenues? How much goes to offset health consequences? How much goes to enforcement? How do you calibrate taxes so the price of pot is high enough to discourage excessive use, but not so high that a cheap black market arises? All this regulating is almost enough to take the fun out of drugs.




2 thoughts on “How to Legalize Pot

  1. And that’s only a partial list of issues to be dealt with. I’m amazed that Washington and Colorado citizens legalized before they had even a clue of how they were going to go about it.

    1. I know. It’s going to be interesting to see how it all plays out.

      Locally, it’s become a larger part of the culture since the passage of medical marijuana legalization.

      I was at a baseball game last week with my kids and people were smoking weed in the bathrooms. That kind of thing is getting to be a lot more common.

      I think a lot of the support for legalization is from people who don’t want users going to jail, but they also want it to be more or less invisible. It will be interesting to see how this is all managed.

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