Pubdate: Sun, 31 Mar 2013
Source: Seattle Times (WA)
Copyright: 2013 The Seattle Times Company
Author: Bob Young


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 revenue will probably be less than half of the $450
million the state has projected as a maximum return, said Dr. Mark
Kleiman, in an interview 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. "The brute
fact," said Kleiman, a UCLA drug-policy expert, is that those
activities depend on heavy use by a few, not moderate use by many.
Just 20 percent of users consume 80 percent of all the weed in the
U.S., Kleiman said. (Forty-six percent of all alcohol consumed in the
U.S. is part of drinking binges, he added).

"The only way to get a lot of revenue is to sell a lot of marijuana,"
he said. "The only way to sell a lot or marijuana is to sell to people
who smoke a lot of marijuana. And that's not a good thing."
Policymakers may not want the state "fostering disease," he said.

But Kleiman stressed that he is not the state's drug czar and is not
here to argue legalization. "We weren't asked if this was good idea.
We were asked to help the (liquor control) board implement a law that
had been passed," he said.

In doing so, Kleiman suggested one coming disappointment:
State-licensed pot stores probably won't open until late spring,
although the state may meet its goal of implementing rules for a
recreational pot system by December.

The trickiest part, Kleiman said, probably will be setting

There are many tangled priorities implicit in pricing. Higher prices
mean less use, but also less revenue, and a stronger black market.
Lower prices could cripple the black market but increase youth use and
adult abuse, as well as illegal exports.

As an academic and Californian, Kleiman said, he was glad to see this
grand experiment unfold in Washington not California. He said he has
been impressed by the smarts and morale of state officials. "We're
obviously pleased that drug policy that doesn't take an ideological
edge is in demand," he said of winning the state's consulting
contract. "It hasn't been."

And he stressed that this remains a state experiment that could be
challenged at any time by a federal government that views marijuana as
a dangerous drug.

"We're only trying to cause a legal market because the federal
government is in the background." 
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MAP posted-by: Jo-D