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In Colorado, Pot Users Smoke Early and Often

Colorado state released this week the world’s first study on what a legal pot market looks like, and the results aren’t pretty. The AP reports:

“This study finds total marijuana demand to be much larger than previously estimated,” Colorado’s study concluded.

Colorado’s market numbers bore out survey estimates that most marijuana is consumed by heavy daily users. For example, survey authors estimated that a third of all Colorado’s pot consumers use the drug less than once a month. But that group accounts for just 0.3 percent of the total market, analysts concluded.

So the demand for pot is far greater than initially expected, and that demand is concentrated among a small subset of overall users. Color us unsurprised. Wherever you stand on the legalization question, it’s important to know that we aren’t mainly talking about expanding supply to a bunch of well-adjusted casual users. We are talking about giving heavy users more and more access to a drug that saps their energy and productivity. One can reasonably maintain that the costs of the drug war areĀ so high that enablingĀ users to fall deeper and deeper into the pot equivalent of alcoholism is worth it. But this study helps us at least be clear about what is at stake.

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  • rheddles

    I’m clear. Stop the War on Drugs. All of them. And no government aid of any sort if they test positive.

    • John Schwartz

      So no Social Security checks? No Unemployment Insurance? We don’t cut these benefits to drunks, why would you do that to potheads?

      • LarryD

        Because the only rational way to legalize drugs is to stop caring about the people who will destroy themselves with them. They must be abandoned to the fate they create for themselves. Any “help” you give them is just enabling their self destructive behavior.

        If you aren’t ruthless enough for that, don’t argue for legalization.

        And note, rheddles said “All of them [drugs]”. He would cut those benefits to drunks, too. Nes c’est pas?

        • John Schwartz

          You could extend that absurd rationalization to any number of things. People want to waste their days watching TV? They’re destroying themselves. Take away their Social Security. Somebody likes eating junk food? Giving them Unemployment Checks is “enabling their self-destructive behavior.”

          Or you could accept that not all government benefits are created equally. SS and UI are theoretically reserved for people who have made contributions to the system. No sense in disregarding their contributions for doing something that’s stupid but legal.

        • rheddles

          Correct, Larry. John, below, does not understand that he who pays the piper calls the tune. Guess he has not heard about what Moochelle and Bloomberg are trying to do.

    • Andrew Allison

      I trust that you include alcohol, tobacco and junk food, each of which is far more costly to society than marijuana.

    • FriendlyGoat

      When you stop the war on drugs, you must stop the testing to determine who is using them. If drugs are not illegal, there would be no constitutional basis for testing anyone.

  • Tiberius Gracchus

    The argument here borders on pure non sequitur. The survey finds one-third of CO pot smokers smoke less than once a month, and constitute just 0.3% of the total cohort. That leaves 97.7% who smoke once a month or more. There is no further breakdown stated in the article, but the conclusion is implied that what we have left are “heavy daily smokers”, when the only conclusion that can be drawn by the evidence presented in the article is that most pot smokers in CO smoke once or more a month, period.

    But let’s address the “heavy daily smoker” tag head on. The fairly ignorant assumptions of some posting here are that all pot smokers are listless welfare cretins burning taxpayer money in an addled Cheech & Chong dystopian stupor, smoking one joint after another for 12 straight hours, binging on Cheetos and Game of Thrones. You can believe that if you wish, but I doubt the population of such miscreants (re: scapegoats) could ever come close to supporting the huge market for pot that has existed in this country for 50 years. Seriously, if you refuse to recognize that the market for pot over these several decades has grown to a sizable percentage of the market for beer, then your head is in the sand. All you need do is look at some real dystopias in areas of Latin America, born of the greed for a slice of a very huge pie, to see that there’s more than just a few stoners driving all this demand.

    So, who are the pot smokers that drive this demand? They’re your neighbors. Your relatives. Your co-workers. Just regular folks who, after a hard day of work, come home and fire up a splif to take the edge off, no different than pouring yourself a glass of wine or popping a brew. Everyone from accountants to shop owners to vice presidents to clerks to construction workers. They don’t smoke on the job, just the same as they don’t drink on the job. They are productive members of society, no different than you. They just happen to enjoy a different recreational drug than you do.

    Just because the alcoholic beverage industry, with obvious self-interest, lobbied against it for so long, or that it became illegal in the first place because William Randolph Hearst wanted to put the hemp paper mills out of business, doesn’t mean illegalizing hemp was just. To say you’d take away a person’s Social Security (which that person contributed with HIS money) or Unemployment Insurance (which that person and his employer contributed to) because they smoked a joint instead of drank a beer is simply ludicrous. Some folks give all their money to nefariously cajoling preachers in hopes they’ll get to Heaven….should we cut them off as well?

    When it gets right down to it, I think the source of most objections might fall into the category of what H.L. Mencken defined as Puritanism: The haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy. Certainly, America has a very long history in that department.

    • Andrew Allison

      Borders? It’s up to its neck in them.

  • Bruce

    “One can reasonably maintain that the costs of the drug war are so high that enabling users to fall deeper and deeper into the pot equivalent of alcoholism is worth it.” Very well said WRM. However, this philosophy would work even better when you have complete freedom in a society and the massive welfare state isn’t there to save people from the consequences of their bad decisions. Regarding drugs, there are no good options. Only less bad options and Colorado has opted for the less bad. The right wing, which pretends to be for freedom (as long as it’s freedom to do the things they like) continues to report how horrible the results have been in Colorado. But freedom entails trade-offs.

    • Andrew Allison

      Come now Bruce. How many of the people who drink alcohol “fall into alcoholism”? The U.S.A. learned absolutely nothing from the results of the 18th Amendment: the ridiculous costly and ineffective “War on Drugs” has done for the Cartels what Prohibition did for Organized Crime.

      • Bruce

        I don’t think we see this one differently, Andrew. Drug addiction is undesirable as is alcoholism, but it doesn’t mean that either should be illegal. The costs of enforcement are too high. I would imagine the SWAT units in Colorado are annoyed that they can’t make marijuana busts with their tanks and grenades anymore. I’d like to see the SWAT units in all 50 states annoyed.

        • Andrew Allison

          We are in complete agreement (except that I’d like to see the SWAT teams put on a VERY short leash rather than just annoyed). It was the quote which you lauded to which I objected. Like the whole post, it was reflective of an utterly subjective view of the perils of pot.

      • Fred

        Actually, you’re right. The USA didn’t learn from Prohibition, but the lesson isn’t what you think it is. Prohibition resulted in the lowest per capita alcohol consumption in our history before or since. Was the cost too high? I don’t know. What was the trade off in terms of lives not destroyed, families kept together and more functional, reduced number of accidents, productivity of the work force, reduced strain on the health care system? I don’t have statistics for any of that, but common sense would dictate that the balance was more favorable to prohibition than most people, especially Libertarian types would like to admit.

        • Andrew Allison

          Common sense suggests that if your hypothesis were correct, there would have been such a marked increase in the ills you outline when prohibition was repealed that it would have been reintroduced. That, obviously, didn’t happen. In fact, per capita consumption rose steadily until 1946 and is currently less than it was then. Meanwhile, in addition to the organized crime costs to which I referred, tens if not hundreds of thousands of people are being incarcerated for victimless crimes and our police forces have been militarized.

          • Fred

            Common sense suggests that if your hypothesis were correct, there would have been such a marked increase in the ills you outline when prohibition was repealed that it would have been reintroduced.

            Non Sequitor. Human perversity is bottomless. It is very easy to imagine Americans (with our extreme individualism) saying “Social problems be damned; I want my drink.”

            tens if not hundreds of thousands of people are being incarcerated for victimless crimes and our police forces have been militarized.

            Define “victimless crime.” Drug abuse is hardly that under any rational definition. Just ask any family member of an alcoholic or drug addict or any victim of a drunk or drugged driver, not to mention any victim of a crime committed to attain drug money. And are you really naive enough to believe that organized crime will go away if we legalize drugs? Nonsense. Organized crimes’ involvement in the drug trade won’t even go away. Legalized drugs will be regulated, black market drugs will not. If you want to argue that unregulated drug use is the answer, then tens of thousands will die of overdoses, accidents, diseases caused by needles, etc. that otherwise would not have, so what have you gained? As for militarized police forces, I’m not even sure what you mean. Are police forces not quasi-military organizations to begin with?

          • Andrew Allison

            Nice try, but as Tiberius Gracchus point out above, most users of marijuana are not addicts and, unlike the punishment, the crime is victimless. Of course organized crime would survive legalization of marijuana (the subject of this discussion), just as it did the repeal of Prohibition. That damage has been done. That’s no reason to keep doing more damage. If you don’t know what I mean by militarization of the police, you haven’t been paying attention to report here and elsewhere of SWAT team excesses.

  • Andrew Allison

    Subjectivity alert! By omitting “Colorado concluded that visitors account for 44 percent of recreational marijuana retail sales in the Denver area. In the mountains and other vacation spots, visitors to Colorado account for 90 percent of recreational dispensary traffic.” in order to make your highly subjective argument, you invalidated it. Most (you name it) is consumed by heavy daily users.

  • ljgude

    My dad told a story about playing football in high school in north Jersey against Ozzie Nelson when I was a kid. Of course with Ozzie and Harriet being big on TV I wanted to know if they socialized. What my father said surprised me. He said “No Ozzie already had a big band and played in NYC and many of the musicians we black and they all smoked reefer. too fast a crowd for him he said. I’m 71 and I’d like to get me some to see if it eased my back pain. .Maybe cook it up in brownies.

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