TCTI: Too Crazy To Ignore
Dave Ross
AP: ap_1b15fea1f80d380c500f6a706700ef83
Different strains of pot are displayed for sale at Medicine Man marijuana dispensary in Denver. Washington and Colorado are rapidly moving toward a commercial marijuana market. And just like the commercial alcohol market, there will be a perverse economic incentive. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley, File)

Legalizers in denial

It will be summertime before you can walk into a retail shop and buy marijuana, which is plenty of time to worry about the impacts that legal pot will have on our state.

Professor Mark Kleiman of UCLA was one of the strongest voices arguing that if drinking alcohol didn't get you thrown in jail, neither should pot.

But now he's worried about the blowback because while pot is no worse than alcohol, it's not much better either.

"A lot of people on the pro-legalization side are still in denial about the cannabis abuse problem," Kleiman said.

He told that Washington and Colorado are rapidly moving toward a commercial marijuana market. And just like the commercial alcohol market, there will be a perverse economic incentive.

"More than 80 percent of what you sell is going to go towards people who are smoking too much, which is true of alcohol today," he said. "When the booze companies tell you they're in favor of responsible drinking, they must be planning to go out of business. Responsible drinkers don't build breweries."

See, for a guy like me, a bottle of whiskey will last two years. I might have one drink a month. And occasionally, I might have to disinfect a cut or soften a paintbrush. You can't make money on that.

It's not the responsible pot users who sustain the marijuana emporiums, and create the massive tax revenue, it's the bingers.

"Forty-six percent of all drinks consumed in the U.S. are consumed as part of drinking binges. And anybody who tells you, you can legalize cannabis and not have more drug abuse, is fooling themselves," said Kleiman.

Since it's the heavy users who account for at least 85 percent of total consumption, they control the market. That's why the stuff is so much stronger than it was 30 years ago. The demand is coming from the users who can't get high otherwise.

So what to do?

Kleiman said the pot business should be under strict federal control. And prices should be high enough to discourage binging, but low enough to discourage smuggling.

Yes, it was stupid that we spent all those years locking up pot smokers, but as he told, Kleiman seems to think that in the process of correcting that, we're doing something almost as stupid: creating yet another business where the market rewards those who do the most harm.

Dave Ross, KIRO Radio Morning News Anchor
Dave Ross hosts the Morning News on KIRO Radio weekdays from 5-9 a.m. Dave has won the national Edward R. Murrow Award for writing five times since he started at KIRO Radio in 1978.
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