Marijuana Expert Says Legalization Will Make Weed Too Cheap


This is the first of a five-part post to tide you over for the Independence Day weekend – “R”R

Mark A. R. Kleiman, a man whose first name is also his initials, is an esteemed public policy professor who thinks California’s Adult Use of Marijuana Act is a “horrible, awful, very bad, no-good drug policy” that is “Promoting cannabis use disorder in California”.

How’s that? Because legalization, California-style, he intones, would see prices “settle down at something below $1 per gram…” Yes, he means that like it’s a bad thing.

According to Kleiman, legal weed will be so cheap that people who like to smoke weed will smoke more of it more often. “In 1992, about 10% of people who reported using cannabis the past month reported having used it on 25 or more days that month,” Kleiman writes. “That number is up to 40%.”

I’m not sure where Kleiman got his numbers, so I went and looked them up for myself in the National Survey on Drug Use and Health. There’s a variable called MJDAY30A that tells us, in both raw numbers and by percentage, how many days in the past thirty days a monthly toker has used marijuana.

Indeed, Kleiman is right about the shift in daily use, even if my numbers are different. In 1992, just 11 percent of monthly tokers were in the top quintile (25 days or more per month), while in 2014, a full third of monthly tokers were near-daily tokers.

There are also just more of us monthly tokers. In 1992, 4.4 percent of the population was lighting up monthly compared to 8.5 percent in 2014[i]. Add in population growth and we’ve got two-and-a-half times the number of monthly tokers and we’ve got eight times the number of near-daily tokers.

NSDUH Monthly 1992 vs 2014

But what has been the societal harm from this explosion in near-daily toking over the past two decades? Crime rates are at historic lows. Vehicle fatalities are at historic lows. Worker productivity is at an all-time high. High school graduation rates are at an all-time high. Teen drug use is in decline. What terrible thing has happened because of all this pot smoking?

According to Kleiman, the result has been an increase in this “cannabis use disorder”, which to him apparently means “people using cannabis often”. “Of those daily/near-daily users, about half – by their own self-report – meet diagnostic criteria for cannabis use disorder,” he writes. “Just over 4 million residents of the U.S. currently report meeting those criteria.”

So legalization means more “cannabis use disorder”… what does that mean? Join me tomorrow as I show you how meaningless a diagnosis it is and why it’s a lousy reason to keep weed prices artificially high.

[i] The variable for overall monthly tokers is MRJMON and for reasons that escape me, its total of monthly tokers differs from the total you get adding up MJDAY30A.

"Radical" Russ Belville is a blogger, podcaster, and host of The Russ Belville Show, a daily two-hour talk radio show focused on the evolution of the legal marijuana industry in the United States. The program is airing live at 3pm Pacific Time from Portland, Oregon, on, with podcast available on iTunes and Stitcher Radio. Russ began his marijuana activism in 2005 with Oregon NORML, then in 2009 went on to work for National NORML, and found and direct Portland 2015.