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The American Public Is Doing a 180 on Marijuana Prohibition...How Come the Politicians Aren't?

Public opinion on marijuana is moving fast, and pols will eventually follow.

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Lower prices might seem like a boon to consumers, but even at current prices marijuana intoxication costs less than a dollar an hour. Making it much cheaper wouldn’t matter much to casual users and might substantially increase the frequency of problem use, especially among teenagers. (Yes, there is problem marijuana use. It’s not even especially uncommon; among those who start in mid-adolescence, the rate of going on to heavy use is comparable to the rate of progressing from casual drinking to alcohol abuse: about 1-in-7. Not great odds.)

Washington state’s much tighter system is well designed to keep prices high and collect revenue for the state. It could also offer consumers marijuana of known chemical composition, something not available on the illicit market. But it’s also very easy for the federal government to disrupt. That’s the paradox of trying to regulate at the state level something that remains a felony under federal law.

We have interesting times ahead.


Mark A. R. Kleiman teaches at UCLA. He's the co-author of "Marijuana Legalization: What Everyone Needs to Know."

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