by David Downs
The state of Washington has tentatively chosen UC Los Angeles professor of public policy Mark Kleiman and his firm Botec Analysis Corp. to consult with them on implementing the state's marijuana legalization Initiative 502.
Based on experience with Kleiman through reporting on his book Marijuana Legalization: What Everyone Needs to Know, as well as hearing of his reputation — it sounds like the state made a pretty good choice. Kleiman isn't some drug warrior hell-bent on pursuing disastrous public policy, nor is he some weed-cures-everything fanatic who lacks credibility. He'll give it to Washingtonians straight.
Washington and Colorado ended about 75 years of dope war hostilities in November, voting to legalize pot for adults 21 and over. No home-growing is allowed in Washington, but the state must license hundreds of pot-only retail stores and associated growers. Washington also retains its medical marijuana program which includes home-growing and caregivers, but technically no dispensaries. Over-the-counter sales to those over 21 should begin in 2014.
Botec will advise the state on rules for a new legal, taxed cannabis industry, which will be run by the Washington State Liquor Control Board. The Liquour Board is in the process of having its mind blown — touring pot farms in California and Colorado. Botec will help the state with product and industry knowledge, quality testing, farm quotas, and the development of regulations.
Here's Kleiman in Marijuana Legalization: What Everyone Needs to Know in the chapter "What Do the Authors Think about Marijuana Legalization":
... So the principles that ought to guide our choice of a marijuana policy ought to be:
More freedom is better than less freedom.
A smaller criminal sector of the economy is better than a larger one.
Fewer people in handcuffs and behind bars is better than more,
Less drug abuse is better than more drug abuse.
That leaves, as my preferred outcomes:
- permission to grow, use, and give away but not to sell;
- noncommercial legalization with small consumer-owned co-ops;
- a tight form of commercialization: taxes high enough to maintain prices at least half as high as current illicit prices, and a ban - if the courts would permit it - on any advertising except simple statements about the price and chemical content of the product; or
- a state monopoly to do the same job: making marijuana legally available without making it cheap or allowing it to be heavily promoted.
Let the regulatory sausage-making begin!