Mark Kleiman/Wikipedia

Lifering takes no official policy on drug decriminalization or legalization, of course. Nonetheless, with legalized medical marijuana in California, and fuller legalization in Colorado and Washington State, and that wrapped around questions of addictiveness, it’s an unavoidable issue, how legalization or decriminalization will affect access, the number of people becoming addicted, quality of marijuana affecting possible addictiveness and more.

And, here’s a great discussion of related issues. Mark Kleiman, as his linked bio points out, is no cultural conservative;  that is, he’s no War on Drugs crusader who opposes legalization or decriminalization because of “Reefer Madness” type myths. So it’s significant that Kleiman, one of America’s top informed drug policy experts, does NOT favor full, “broad” legalization, in part because he thinks something similar to Big Pot might, like Big Tobacco, want to get people hooked.

Why? Well, marijuana is addictive. And, that’s Lifering’s starting point.

Kleiman talks more about its addictiveness, abuse potential and related issues that some ardent legalizers often try to avoid:

A lot of people on the pro-legalization side are still in denial about the cannabis abuse problem.  The numbers are about 33 million people will say in a survey that they’ve used cannabis in the last year.  About half of those, about 16 million, say they’ve used it in the last month.  Of those, about a quarter say they use 25 days or more per month.  In a different survey that folks over at Rand did the people who smoke many days per month also use a lot more per day.  That very heavy user group accounts for 85 or 95 percent of the total cannabis consumed.

About half the people who are daily or near daily users just from their own self-reporting in the surveys meet clinical criteria for abuse or dependence.  Cannabis is interfering with their lives and they’ve tried to cut down and they can’t.  It’s not as bad as an addiction to cocaine or methamphetamine or the opiates or alcohol. But it’s plenty bad enough if it happens to you or your brother or your kid or your parent.

Note that Rand is one of the nation’s top libertarian-oriented think tanks. If anybody had incentive to soft-pedal this issue, it would be a group like Rand. Again, though, like Kleiman, it’s presenting the information straight up, which should again indicate that it’s gotten serious consideration.

Kleiman draws parallels to “responsible drinking” PR of the alcohol industry or manipulation of tobacco by Big Tobacco.

Anybody who tells you, you can legalize cannabis and not have more drug abuse is fooling himself. Of course we’re going to have more. The question is how much more? My belief is if you can keep the prices close to the current illicit prices you won’t get a big upsurge in heavy use. It’s the heavy users and the kids who care most about price.

He also expects pot e-cigs to be the wave of the future. And, if anything like full legalization happens in other states, wants them to be.

This isn’t “just a political issue.” Rather, it’s spelling out likely public health impact of political action. Given that California, Lifering’s home state, has legalized medical marijuana, and Colorado, Lifering’s second-largest ground, has gone to full legalization, that’s part of why it’s important for Lifering to be aware of this, including Kleiman’s note about the number of people still in denial.

In fact, it’s arguably not just an American issue, as British Columbia, the home of Lifering Canada, allows medical marijuana, and across Canada, support for at least some form of decriminalization seems at least as high as in the US.