Washington has tentatively chosen professor Mark Kleiman at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), to be its official marijuana consultant. His firm Botec Analysis is based in Cambridge, Mass., and has evaluated government programs and provided consulting relating to drug use, crime and public health. Losing bidders for the contract can protest the award. Kleiman has written several books on drug policy, including "Marijuana Legalization: What Everyone Needs to Know." Reformers have had a "love/hate" relationship with Kleiman over the years.
Washington state gets ready to regulate legal marijuana with the help of one of America’s top drug policy analysts. Mark Kleiman is professor of public policy at the University of California in Los Angeles, and co-author of Marijuana Legalization: What Everyone Needs to Know. His team at Botec Analysis Corporation earned the contract to help turn Washington state’s vote to legalize marijuana into a reality. TIME talked to him about the challenging job ahead.
Washington’s new pot consultant has one overarching, discouraging message for lawmakers and state budget writers: don’t look at weed as an ATM. Potential tax revenues will probably be less than half of the $450 million that’s been projected, said Mark Kleiman, in a interview Thursday night with TVW’s Austin Jenkins. More important, Kleiman said, to rely on money from pot — like money from gambling, alcohol and tobacco — means relying on abuse and addiction, which are not necessarily desirable state goals.
Colorado lawmakers stood the state's current model for marijuana businesses on its head, endorsing a proposal that would allow recreational pot stores and commercial growers to operate independently. Currently, medical-marijuana businesses in Colorado are vertically integrated, meaning growers and sellers are part of the same company and the stores grow most of what they sell. But, at the final meeting of a legislative committee writing a bill for recreational marijuana rules, lawmakers backed a proposed model where growers and sellers would be separate. (See also: Denver Mayor Michael Hancock: Pot should be phased in; no pot clubs)
Legal cannabis will naturally be much, much cheaper than illegal cannabis. A joint is the same sort of item as a teabag: the dried flowers of a plant in a wrapper. A fancy teabag costs a dime at the supermarket; the marijuana in an average joint costs about $4 (0.4 gram of sinsemilla flowers @ $10/gram) on the current illicit and quasi-medical markets. The combination of not having to worry about law enforcement and the economies of mass production will inevitably drive the joint price down close to the teabag price.
Prohibitionists warn that it’s dangerous even to discuss legalizing marijuana because such talk sends “the wrong message” to the youth of America, encouraging them to smoke pot. If so, you might expect that the legalization of marijuana in Colorado and Washington, approved by voters more than a year ago, would have a noticeable impact on marijuana use by teenagers. Yet the latest data from the government-sponsored Monitoring the Future Study indicate that teenagers continued smoking pot at pretty much the same rates as before.
Looking at the recent spread of liberalized marijuana laws across the United States, it's hard not to think we're entering some kind of Weed Spring. The latest state to act is Maryland, where on Monday the state senate approved a bill legalizing medical marijuana by 42 to 4, sending it to Gov. Martin O'Malley, who is expected to sign it into law. Several state legislatures are considering relaxing their restrictions on marijuana. A majority of Americans now favor legalizing marijuana, and 65 percent of young people support legalizing it.
Colorado regulators have begun surveying marijuana businesses about the price of pot in an effort to implement a new excise tax that voters passed earlier this month. The tax places a 15 percent levy on the wholesale price of recreational marijuana when it moves between the grower and the seller. However, Colorado's recreational marijuana industry won't have a true wholesale market for the first nine months. They must grow almost everything they sell — meaning the wholesale transactions that will be subject to the excise tax are really just pot transfers in which no money is exchanged.
The results of a survey commissioned by the Drug Policy Action Group shows 57 percent of respondents in favor of legalizing, taxing and regulating marijuana. According to Maui Now, that figure marks a 20 percent increase in support from 2005. The poll was accompanied by an economic impact report, which found that marijuana legalization would provide the state with savings of around $12 million a year in enforcement costs, as well as at least $11 million a year in additional revenue through taxation.
An effort is building in Congress to change U.S. marijuana laws, including moves to legalize the industrial production of hemp and establish a hefty federal pot tax. One measure would regulate marijuana the way the federal government handles alcohol: In states that legalize pot, growers would have to obtain a federal permit. Oversight of marijuana would be removed from the Drug Enforcement Administration and given to the newly renamed Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Marijuana and Firearms, and it would remain illegal to bring marijuana from a state where it's legal to one where it isn't.
Last November ballot initiatives legalizing, taxing, and regulating recreational marijuana use passed for the first time ever in Colorado and Washington state. Now marijuana reform is popping up in state legislatures across the country. Once the pet project of a few fringe figures, it has attracted a new generation of politicians from both parties with credible national aspirations. Even some Republicans see an opportunity to capitalize on a constituency that shocked the pundit class with its financial and grassroots muscle -- not to mention sophisticated campaign tactics -- just a few months ago.
With other states already starting to allow the legal use of marijuana, Maine needs to get ahead of the issue and legalize, regulate and tax the sale of the drug, lawmakers were told. LD 1229, the Act to Tax and Regulate Marijuana, was introduced by State Rep. Diane Russell (D-Portland). "This issue is coming to our state," Russell told the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee as it took up the bill she sponsored. It has 35 co-sponsors in the 186-member Legislature.
Lawmakers from opposite ends of the political spectrum unveiled a bill Thursday that would give Mainers the chance to legalize marijuana for recreational use in a statewide referendum. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Diane Russell, D-Portland, and co-sponsored by Rep. Aaron Libby, R-Waterboro, would make vast changes in Maine’s drug law, ranging from making possession of up to 2.5 ounces of pot legal to imposing a tax of $50 per ounce.
Public support for legalizing marijuana has never been higher, but the latest studies show recreational use is linked with prescription drug misuse. In the latest nationwide survey of 1,501 people polled in mid-March about legalizing marijuana, 52% of those surveyed favored making weed legal, and 72% said that efforts to enforce anti-marijuana laws bring more cost than benefit.
In 21 states, consumers can legally buy marijuana for legal or recreational use even though the substance still is illegal under federal law. New laws legalizing recreational marijuana use in Washington and Colorado likely are under the states' "power to decide what is criminal and what is not," a report from the Congressional Research Service said. The report analyzed court precedent and presented what can be done to enforce federal law now that several states have marijuana laws that contradict it.
Drug war hawk John McCain is turning pot dove. McCain appears open to making a dramatic shift on marijuana policy, saying during a town-hall meeting in Arizona that he's open to potentially legalizing weed.
For the first time, a majority of Americans, 58%, favor legalizing marijuana, according to a Gallup poll released Tuesday. That number was just 12% in 1969, when Gallup first asked the question. 38% of Americans surveyed this year said they had tried marijuana. The shift in national public support for pot legalization accelerated over the last two years. Public support has risen 8 points since 2011. (See also: Choom gang rising)
The Obama administration said that it would not challenge laws legalizing marijuana in Colorado and Washington state as long as those states maintain strict rules involving the sale and distribution of the drug. In a memo to U.S. attorneys in all 50 states, Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole said the Justice Department is “committed to using its limited investigative and prosecutorial resources to address the most significant threats in the most effective, consistent and rational way.”