Meet Washington's Pot Czar

A blog about business and economics.
March 27 2013 5:47 PM

Mark Kleiman Will Be Washington State's "Pot Czar"

Marijuana seized to criminal gangs is shown by Colombian police after operations at the Commune 13 -- one of the shantytowns with the highest rates of urban violence -- on March 21, 2013, in Medellin, Antioquia department, Colombia.

Photo by RAUL ARBOLEDA/AFP/Getty Images

I'm extremely excited to learn that Mark Kleiman has been picked to lead Washington State's marijuana legalization efforts. I've known Kleiman slightly for years, and am a big fan of both his blogging and his books. He's one of the very best thinkers on crime control and drug policy out there and his work has very heavily shaped my views on the subject.

It remains to be seen what kind of mess the federal government manages to make out of Washington's policy changes in this regard. But hopefully they'll do as much as possible to but out and see what we can learn from a little federalism here. As Kleiman has often emphasized, the fact of the matter is that we know very little about the public health impact of making marijuana cheaply and conveniently available. One plausible story is that marijuana would substitute for alcohol use, and since marijuana has fewer health risks than booze that would militate in favor of policies designed to make pot at least as easy to get as beer. Another also possible story is that legal marijuana will complement drinking, and therefore exacerbate existing alcohol-related problems. That would indicate that we should try to make pot less widely available than beer currently is (though still more available than under the status quo) along with higher taxes on alcohol.


These are the kinds of issues that legalization in Washington and Colorado will let us explore, and it's great that the effort is going to be led by someone who's attuned to them and really interested in pragmatically seizing this opportunity to build a much better policy framework than the dysfunctional status quo.

Matthew Yglesias is the executive editor of Vox and author of The Rent Is Too Damn High.



Blacks Don’t Have a Corporal Punishment Problem

Americans do. But when blacks exhibit the same behaviors as others, it becomes part of a greater black pathology. 

I Bought the Huge iPhone. I’m Already Thinking of Returning It.

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

Lifetime Didn’t Think the Steubenville Rape Case Was Dramatic Enough

So they added a little self-immolation.

Two Damn Good, Very Different Movies About Soldiers Returning From War

Medical Examiner

The Most Terrifying Thing About Ebola 

The disease threatens humanity by preying on humanity.

Students Aren’t Going to College Football Games as Much Anymore, and Schools Are Getting Worried

The Good Wife Is Cynical, Thrilling, and Grown-Up. It’s Also TV’s Best Drama.

  News & Politics
Sept. 19 2014 9:15 PM Chris Christie, Better Than Ever
Sept. 19 2014 6:35 PM Pabst Blue Ribbon is Being Sold to the Russians, Was So Over Anyway
Inside Higher Ed
Sept. 19 2014 1:34 PM Empty Seats, Fewer Donors? College football isn’t attracting the audience it used to.
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 4:58 PM Steubenville Gets the Lifetime Treatment (And a Cheerleader Erupts Into Flames)
  Slate Plus
Slate Picks
Sept. 19 2014 12:00 PM What Happened at Slate This Week? The Slatest editor tells us to read well-informed skepticism, media criticism, and more.
Brow Beat
Sept. 19 2014 4:48 PM You Should Be Listening to Sbtrkt
Future Tense
Sept. 19 2014 6:31 PM The One Big Problem With the Enormous New iPhone
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Sept. 19 2014 5:09 PM Did America Get Fat by Drinking Diet Soda?   A high-profile study points the finger at artificial sweeteners.
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.