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Kevin Sabet, co-founder of SAM, says his biggest concern with legalization in Colorado and Washington so far "is the rise of a fairly large industry whose only objective is to increase profit." He explained, "Its only way to do that is to increase heavy use and irresponsible use.Remember the alcohol industry, the tobacco industry, the pharmaceutical industry, they don't make a lot of money from the people who consume occasionally or now and again.By Kleiman's count, only liberal Vermont is seriously looking at the possibility of legalizing pot through its state legislature.
Kleiman, who helped Washington state set up its marijuana regulations, says the simplicity of the ballot initiatives makes it difficult to get into the nuance of legalization.
If a state is bound by a voter-approved measure to allow private citizens and businesses to sell pot, it becomes much more difficult to set up more elaborate, regulated models of sales.
States, for instance, might have a harder time requiring nonprofits or co-ops to sell marijuana, similar to what's being done in parts of Spain and Uruguay.
They also might not be able to set quotas or require users to set their own quotas for how much pot can be bought each month, which is a favorite idea of Kleiman's.
They're making money from the heavy users." Mark Kleiman, a drug policy expert at New York University's Marron Institute who supports a much more regulated form of legalization, has consistently pointed to the commercialization of marijuana as one of his primary concerns with the current model of legalization.
Marijuana companies' "best customers are the problem users," Kleiman said in a previous interview.
And Kleiman, for his part, says edibles could be properly managed with strong regulations, some of which have been established in Colorado and Washington after several incidents, including Maureen Dowd's infamous New York Times op-ed, led to public outcry.
"It may be in the long run that eating it is safer," he said. And once you have a legal option, you know how much you're taking." Still, Kleiman said it will be a long time until the full effects of commercialization come to light.
Although retail sales have technically been underway in Colorado since January, the recreational industry as a whole still deals in much higher prices than the medical side.
Kleiman expects that to come down over time as the recreational industry builds capacity, and then the full effects of commercialization will begin to show.