Is Commercialization of Pot Hurting the Legalization Movement?

Smart Approaches to Marijuana chief, Kevin Sabet, states that the underground marijuana market in Colorado is thriving, contrary to the legalizers’ argument commercializing pot would put illegal sellers out of business. It turns out it is easy for the traffickers to undercut the taxed retail price of marijuana and cannabis edibles.  In fact he says you can buy marijuana for about half the price on the illegal market. Colorado has accomplished nothing, he says, other than a convenient market for out-of-staters and older people, who are willing to pay for the convenience of just going to the store.

It also turns out Colorado is getting only a fraction of the tax revenues they expected. As so often occurs, unintended consequences here again haunt the legislative halls. Even the incumbent Democratic governor in a re-election debate argued that marijuana commercialization was not a good idea.

One of those unintended consequences is the continued rate of addiction among adolescents. Sabet states the ratio of addiction to cannabis use is one in 4 for those who start at age 14, dropping to 1 in 11 at age 21. And, the robust CASA studies show that 90% of adult addicts of all substances got their start as teenagers. If we want to curtail addiction in a meaningful way, we need to take away access to drugs by minors. There is only one way that is going to happen—allowing adults to be dispensed legal and safely manufactured drugs—putting the street dealers out of business.

The proposal for doing this made in my book, Kill the Drug Trade, is a system designed to control against leakage of drugs to minors, while allowing adults to use. My idea is not gladly embraced by users who want open and unrestricted use of all drugs, but in time, even they may come to realize it is both better by far than prohibition and more likely to jump political hurdles than legalization.

Meanwhile, commercialization of pot is spreading in the States and the likely experience of each of them  will be like that of Colorado and disappointing to the taxpaying public. I fear that meritorious efforts to loosen up on other drugs will be impeded by the bad press commercialized cannabis is beginning to get.

© All rights reserved to Dave Finch  5/11/2017

For more information about my plan, visit Reform Drug Policy Project.


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