Personally, I've been wavering on how I'll vote in November on the California proposition that legalizes marijuana. I hear the proponents of Proposition 19 with their complaints that the current public policy on pot has been a total failure. I also understand civil rights advocates who say that minorities are unfairly targeted in pot busts. But I'm very wary about legalizing a drug that will undoubtedly see a huge rise in consumption if the proposition passes. A recent RAND study said it's difficult to calculate the exact increased consumption if pot is legalized, but, since the price will go down with legalization, marijuana use could rise 50 to 100 percent if Prop. 19 passes.
I spoke with my friend, Keith Humphreys, MD, who just returned from a one-year stint in the Obama administration's Office of National Drug Policy, about legalizing pot. I suspect Keith is right when he says that multi-national tobacco companies will likely step into the fray and market pot if Prop. 19 wins. I suppose the Food and Drug Administration could somehow prevent big tobacco from entering the marijuana business, but the mere thought that the cigarette industry could take over marketing of marijuana makes me very cool toward supporting legalization.
Moreover, Keith makes a good case that pot has been decriminalized in California for many years now. It's a misdemeanor here with a small fine so why, he asks, take the huge step and legalize it without fully realizing the consequences?
In this new 1:2:1 podcast, I talk with him about his concerns about Prop. 19, his belief that the medical use of marijuana is overwhelmingly abused by young male smokers who are not ill, and his stint in Washington. Something I didn't realize is that the passage of the health-care legislation will have a huge impact on providing treatment services for the drug addicted.
Here at Stanford, Keith is a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences. And since 2004 he has volunteered in the effort to rebuild Iraq's mental health system, something he talked about in a previous podcast.
I'll probably continue to waver on how I'll vote in November. It's unlike me, but I might wind up making up my mind as I walk into the polling booth. But no matter what I decide, Keith makes a compelling case to vote NO.