Pubdate: Sat, 21 May 2016
Source: Canberra Times (Australia)
Copyright: 2016 Canberra Times
Author: Alexandra Back


There's never been a more exciting time to be a drug policy researcher.

That's the view of one, Professor Beau Kilmer, who was in Canberra 
this week for a conference at the National Portrait Gallery, hosted 
by the International Society for the Study of Drug Policy.

Professor Kilmer, who sat on a panel to discuss the options and 
issues around cannabis regulation, said that while many people were 
under the impression marijuana was legal in places like the 
Netherlands, in fact what was happening in the United States was 

Residents in Colorado and Washington voted in 2012 to not only remove 
prohibition, but allow for-profit companies to start selling cannabis products.

Professor Kilmer, who is co-director of the RAND Drug, Policy 
Research Centre, and co-author of a book called Marijuana 
Legalisation, said his organisation did not have an official position 
on the legalisation of cannabis.

They instead helped policymakers and stakeholders understand the options.

"The thing to keep in mind is, if you're a jurisdiction that is 
thinking about doing something other than prohibition ... you have a 
couple of options," he said.

He explains that between prohibition and the for-profit model in 
Colorado, for example, a jurisdiction could allow home production or 
cannabis social clubs, which work like a collective.

Or there's imposing a government monopoly on production and supply, 
or limit participation in the cannabis market to non-profit organisations.

The same goes for medical marijuana. While people often think of the 
California model  where cannabis is easy to access - there are other 
models, such in New York which is more restrictive.

Uruguay, Israel and the Czech Republic are other countries 
experimenting with cannabis regulation in different forms.

The issues he warns policymakers and legislators about include that 
if they were to go from prohibition to a Colorado type of model, it 
could be a lot harder to put that "genie back in the bottle" once the 
industry was developed and there were lobbyists and people invested.

Or if for-profits are allowed to be involved, you have to consider 
how they will target heavy users, and the 80/20 rule, which says 20 
per cent of users account for 80 per cent of consumption.

But perhaps most of all he warns that it is early days yet, without 
the decades of research that inform alcohol policy, for example.

"Let's be honest, nobody knows how this is going to play out, it's 
very early," he said. "No one has done this before."
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom