Our friends at High Times (and former NORML director Dr. Jon Gettman) are running an online poll asking for consumers’ choice regarding the preferred marijuana distribution that emerges post-prohibition.
Legal Marijuana: Which Market Do You Prefer?
As we approach the new inevitability of legalized cannabis, three models have been proposed for a national marijuana market.
By Jon Gettman
In the past, the goal of marijuana legalization was simple: to bring about the end of federal prohibition and allow adults to use the plant without threat of prosecution and imprisonment. But now that legalization is getting serious attention, it’s time to examine how a legal marijuana market should operate in the United States.
Below are descriptions of the three kinds of legal markets that have emerged from various discussions on the subject. We would like to know which one you prefer.
First, though, let’s touch on a few characteristics that all of these proposals share. In each one, the market has a minimum age for legal use, likely the same as the current age limits for alcohol and tobacco. In each of these legal markets, there will be penalties for driving while intoxicated, just as with alcohol use. You can also assume that there will be guaranteed legal access to marijuana for medical use by anyone, regardless of age, with a physician’s authorization. The last characteristic shared by all three mar- kets is that there will be no criminal penalties for the adult possession and use of marijuana.
Under this approach, there would be no commercial marijuana market allowed. Marijuana would be grown and processed for sale under government contracts, supervised and/or managed by a large, government-chartered nonprofit organization. Marijuana would be sold in state-run retail outlets (similar to the state-run stores that have a monopoly on liquor sales in places like Mississippi, Montana and Vermont, among others), where the sales personnel will be trained to provide accurate information about cannabis and its effects. Products like edibles and marijuana-infused liquids with fruity flavors would be banned out of a concern that they can encourage minors to try the drug. There would be no advertising or marketing allowed, and no corporate or business prof- its. Instead, the revenue earned from sales would pay for production costs and the operation of the state control organization; the rest of the profits would go to government-run treatment, prevention, education and enforcement programs. Regulations would be enforced by criminal sanctions and traditional law enforcement (local, state and federal police). No personal marijuana cultivation would be allowed. The price of marijuana would remain at or near current levels in order to discourage underage use.
Limited Commercial Market
Under this approach, the cultivation, processing and retail sale of marijuana would be conducted by private companies operating under a limited number of licenses issued by the federal government. Advertising and marketing would be allowed, but they would be regulated similar to the provisions governing alcohol and tobacco promotion. Taxation would be used to keep prices at or near current levels in order to discourage underage use. Corporate profits would be allowed, and tax revenues would be used to fund treatment, prevention, education and enforcement programs. Regulations would be enforced by criminal sanctions and traditional law enforcement (local, state and federal police). No personal marijuana cultivation would be allowed.
Regulated Free Market
Under this approach, entrepreneurs would have open access to any part of the marijuana market. Cultivation, processing and retail operations could be legally undertaken by anyone willing to bear the risks of investment and competition. Advertising and marketing would be allowed, but they would be regulated similar to the provisions governing alcohol and tobacco promotion. Prices would be determined by supply and demand, with taxation set at modest levels similar to current taxes on alcohol, tobacco and gambling. (These vary widely from state to state, but assume that under this model, the price of marijuana would be substantially lower than it is in the current market.)
Also, home cultivation would be allowed. Licenses may be required for any sort of cultivation, but these would be for registration purposes only and subject to nominal fees based on the number of plants involved. Individuals and corporations would be allowed to make whatever profits they can through competition. Tax revenues would fund treatment, prevention, education and enforcement programs. Competition and market forces would structure the market rather than licenses or government edicts, and regulatory agencies rather than law enforcement would supervise market activity.
A Different Approach
There are two key issues when it comes to deciding among these proposals. First, should the price of marijuana be kept high through government intervention in order to discourage underage use as well as abuse? Second, does commercialization translate into corporate money being spent to convince teenagers to use marijuana? Many of the proposals for how a legal market should operate are based on assumptions about these two issues, which leads to recommendations that the government must, one way or another, direct and control the marijuana market.
Obviously, the first two proposals outlined above reflect those very concerns. The third takes a different approach, in which marijuana is treated like similar psychoactive commodities, and the public relies on education, prevention and age limits to discourage underage use as well as abuse.
We want to know what type of legal marijuana market you prefer. Please take part in our poll on the HIGH TIMES website.
Earlier today, the Democratic Party of Oregon came out in support of Measure 91, which would legalize and regulate the adult use, cultivation, and sale of marijuana in the state.
These endorsements were made by a “voting body comprised of the State Central Committee delegates, alternates, and associates.” A measure required a two-thirds vote for or against for the Party to take an official position.
In a press release highlighting their supportive position, the Democratic Party of Oregon stated that “a majority of Americans and large majority of Democrats now support state regulation of legal marijuana use. Measure 91 is the right approach to legalization in Oregon, strictly regulating use while funding law enforcement and schools. Vote Yes on 91.”
You can read the full release here.
You can learn more about Measure 91, including ways you can donate or volunteer, by visiting their website here.
NORML will be providing much more coverage on this and other ballot initiatives as election season heats up. Stay tuned.
Sixty-six percent of Americans believe that adults ought to legally be able to consume cannabis in the privacy of one’s own home, according to results of a nationwide HuffingtonPost/YouGov survey released late last week.
Seventy-two percent of self-identified Democrats and 70 percent of Independents said that the private consumption of cannabis should be legal. Republican respondents endorsed private consumption by a margin of 50 percent to 39 percent.
Fifty-five percent of respondents — including 62 percent of Democrats and 60 percent of Independents — also said that they supported statewide laws seeking to tax and regulate the commercial production and retail sale of cannabis to adults, such as those recently enacted in Colorado and Washington. By contrast, only 37 percent of Republicans said they supported such a plan.
The HuffPost/YouGov survey possesses a margin of error of +/- 3.9 percent.
The political and cultural victories for the marijuana legalization movement continue to accumulate as new developments lead us closer to the ultimate goal of full legalization. Just in the last couple of weeks, we’ve seen the powerful, unambiguous endorsement of full legalization by the most influential newspaper in America: The New York Times.
That endorsement was followed by a series of six follow-up editorials explaining in more detail precisely why the Times decided to join the fight to end prohibition. Additionally, The Brookings Institution, a highly respected Washington, DC think tank, published a very favorable report card on the first six months of the legal sales of marijuana in Colorado.
These were both significant events, because they involved respected institutions known for their careful and thorough analysis of important public policy issues. Neither has a history of backing a pro-pot agenda, so their support both elevates the issue and makes a strong argument for regulation.
Dear NORML members and supporters,
It is nearly impossible to detect the precise moment when support for a change in social policy reaches the "tipping point", but for the marijuana legalization movement, that time was likely July 26, 2014, when the editorial board of the New York Times published their editorial entitled Repeal Prohibition, Again.
For those who may have missed it, here an excerpt; it is one of the strongest endorsements I have ever read.
"The federal government should repeal the ban on marijuana." …
"The social costs of the marijuana laws are vast. There were 658,000 arrests for marijuana possession in 2012, according to F.B.I. figures, compared with 256,000 for cocaine, heroin and their derivatives. Even worse, the result is racist, falling disproportionately on young black men, ruining their lives and creating new generations of career criminals."
"There is honest debate among scientists about the health effects of marijuana, but we believe that the evidence is overwhelming that addiction and dependence are relatively minor problems, especially compared with alcohol and tobacco. Moderate use of marijuana does not appear to pose a risk for otherwise healthy adults. Claims that marijuana is a gateway to more dangerous drugs are as fanciful as the "Reefer Madness" images of murder, rape and suicide."…
"Creating systems for regulating manufacture, sale and marketing will be complex. But those problems are solvable, and would have long been dealt with had we as a nation not clung to the decision to make marijuana production and use a federal crime."…
"it is long past time to repeal this version of Prohibition."
And that is only beginning. The Times editors, with whom NORML’s staff and board have been assisting for some time, are now publishing additional editorials, dealing with different aspects of marijuana legalization on a daily basis. The editors of America’s most influential newspaper have not just changed their position; they are now determined to lead the change from marijuana prohibition to legalization.
Their new position on marijuana policy reflects a gradually evolving perspective, going back to 1966, when the paper warned readers that marijuana "for a considerable number of young people who try it, it is the first step down the fateful road to heroin."
By 1969, they were calling for some "distinction between soft and hard drugs," and by 1972, with the release of the Marijuana Commission report, the Times acknowledged "the dangers inherent in smoking marijuana appear to be less than previously assumed," and called for the elimination of penalties for possession and use.
But it was not until early 2014 that they heralded the opening of the first licensed marijuana shops in Colorado, noting that the experiences in Colorado and Washington "will serve as test cases for full-on legalization."
And now they have taken the crucial, final step to endorse full legalization for all adults, the position NORML has advanced since 1970.
New York Times
- 1966 – "for a considerable number of young people who try it, it is the first step down the fateful road to heroin."
- 1969 – "distinction between soft and hard drugs,"
- 1972 – "the dangers inherent in smoking marijuana appear to be less than previously assumed,"
- 2014 – "The federal government should repeal the ban on marijuana."
So we trust you will understand if, to those of us at NORML, who have been fighting for full legalization for 44 years, we see this latest endorsement by the New York Times as the unofficial tipping-point for legalization.
Sure, there remains a great deal of work to move legalization forward in the remaining 48 states. But with the favorable reviews coming out of Colorado and Washington, and with the national polling demonstrating that we currently enjoy the support of between 53% and 58% of the American public, we think it is fair to say we have turned the corner politically, and victory will be ours within just a few years.
And that is why we are writing today, to ask that you please make a generous contribution to NORML so we can expand our lobbying activities, and media and educational outreach efforts so that we can continue to build on this momentum. Without question, we are finally winning this struggle, but nevertheless marijuana arrests continue unabated in most states today, and seriously ill patients still do not have access to medical marijuana in more than half of the states.
Let us take a well-deserved moment to celebrate the enormous progress we have made, but then let’s get back to work to stop the senseless arrests of marijuana consumers. We must stop destroying the lives and careers of so many otherwise law-abiding citizens, simply because they prefer to use marijuana when they relax in the evening, just as tens of millions of Americans enjoy a beer or a glass of wine at the end of the day. And we need to put in place regulations for licensed marijuana growers and sellers, to bring the black market above ground.
NORML was the first marijuana legalization lobby in America–with over 1.5 million supporters and members we’ve been the voice for marijuana consumers now for more than four decades.
Please make a tax-deductible donation to NORML Foundation (for public education and mass communications) and/or a regular charitable donation to NORML (in support of our direct lobbying and other political activities).
With your generous support, we can continue to lead the charge for full legalization, both state and federal, all across this country.
NORML Founder and Legal Counsel