The Man Behind Washington’s $30 Grams Loves DC’s ‘Grow-and-Give’

Mark A. R. Klieman (or as I call him, M.A.R.K.) is a public policy professor at UCLA. His company, BOTEC, was called on to consult with Washington State to help develop its legal marijuana program. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer now calls Washington’s I-502 “the worst recreational marijuana law” in the United States. Now M.A.R.K., whose consultation led to absurdly low supply and highest-in-the-nation pot taxes leading to $30 grams, is hailing the passage of Washington DC’s “grow-and-give” recreational marijuana law as “the one I’m most excited about” and a “big improvement.”

“D.C. law won’t allow any commercial activity,” M.A.R.K. wrote last week in Slate. “District residents will be able to grow a limited number of plants, possess a limited amount of the resulting cannabis, and give away — but not sell — whatever they don’t want to smoke themselves. The system is called “grow and give.”

M.A.R.K. is as wrong about DC’s “grow-and-give” as he was in consulting Washington State’s legalization. Before DC passed Initiative 71, it already had “grow-and-give.” You could grow marijuana secretly and you could choose to give it to people. Hardly anyone did, though, choosing instead to charge $400 an ounce for their “gift” to another.

Now post-71, people can grow marijuana openly and can choose to give it to people. But now, neither the grower nor the consumer need fret about any law enforcement consequences. I expect much more “giving” of $400 ounces to occur. That, of course, means that law enforcement will still need to do undercover investigations of who’s “giving” $400 ounces away, just as they did before the law passed.

M.A.R.K. is so happy about DC because he begins with the assumption that adults consuming marijuana is bad, mmmkay? “Eliminating organized marketing would likely lead to a much smaller increase — if any — in cannabis abuse,” M.A.R.K. writes. Every piece of advice he gives is distorted by this view so that he advocates policies he believes will do the most to curtail adult use of marijuana, regardless of whether those policies would undo the biggest harm of prohibition — criminal control of the pot market.

Thus, we got an absurdly-low production cap in Washington State — can’t have too many people growing too much weed or adults will smoke it! “States that legalize could at least use production caps or high taxes,” M.A.R.K. explains, “to prevent the collapse in marijuana prices that will surely result from substituting cheap legal production for expensive illegal production.” That’s why we got ridiculously high pot prices in Washington — if the weed is too cheap, adults will smoke it!

“If the goal is to allow adults to toke up in peace — without the hassle of finding a “420-friendly” physician and pretending to have some ailment — and to stop arresting so many users and low-level cannabis dealers, disproportionately poor and minorities, it can be done without involving the ‘potrepreneurs’ now hoping to cash in on the Green Rush,” M.A.R.K. predicts. But how does that work, M.A.R.K.? Even a UCLA Econ 101 student understands the law of supply and demand. Low-level dealers will still exist and they’ll still be criminals and they’ll still be siphoning away time from law enforcement and profits that should be taxed to benefit society, not pocketed to benefit criminals.

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