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Wash. Pot Czar Predicted $50/oz, Said Those Concerned About Price “Smoke Too Much Pot”


washington state czar Mark KleimanLast summer on Show #29, I interviewed Professor Mark Kleiman, a UCLA Public Policy analyst who had written a book on marijuana legalization.

He is now Washington State’s “Marijuana Czar” – actually, the CEO of the company that was awarded the bid by the Washington State Liquor Control Board to implement the state’s new marijuana legalization regulations.

At the 4:20 mark of the video (naturally), Kleiman answers my questions about the economic effects of marijuana legalization at the state level, expressing that the cost to the retail customer should be about $40 to $50 per ounce. Later, at about 7:24, he explains how legalization at the national level would bring the price of weed into the range of “tea bags”.

However, I was most stunned when Kleiman revealed his disdain for marijuana consumers and I now worry about how well he will craft regulations to meet the needs of marijuana consumers. At 8:16 he compares marijuana smokers concerned about the price of herb to an old scotch ad comparing a top shelf brand to a house brand, and proclaims that if you’re worried about the price of pot, “you’re smokin’ too much pot.”

When I pressed him on the the definitions of “too much” and whether that’s an overall public harm worth criminalizing people and enriching cartels, he agreed that legalization was a better option, but only in the context of the trade-off and only if legalization policy is shaped to reduce pot smoking:

KLEIMAN: That’s the problem of marijuana policy.  You’ve got a trade-off between illegality with all the costs of illegality, and free availibility, with all the costs of increased drug abuse.  You’ve got to try to figure out where on that spectrum you want to lie.  My view is we’d be better off conceding that some people are going to smoke too much pot, making it legal, trying to make it as expensive as we can under legality, and try to limit the marketing.  So my ideal system would be that people would join co-ops, the way they do in Spain, that there would not be ‘big marijuana’ companies running ‘Bud’ vs. ‘Bud Light’ ads on the Super Bowl.

I don’t think this bodes well for marijuana consumers to have the regulator aiming for the most expensive marijuana possible.  Or judging frequent consumers as “abusers” solely by the frequency of their use.

Our interview took the strangest turn when he claimed that nobody dies from tobacco:

KLEIMAN: The damage [from cannabis]is limited – not zero.  You know, this ‘nobody ever died [from cannabis]’ is silly.  By those standards, nobody ever died from smoking tobacco, either.

BELVILLE: Nobody ever died of smoking tobacco?

KLEIMAN: Well, if the rule is you’re only looking for fatal overdoses… (pause) Cannabis smoking damages the lungs.

BELVILLE: I’ll concede there’s not a fatal overdose for nicotine, certainly it’s the major contributor to, you know, lung cancer.

KLEIMAN: Yes, and it looks like cannabis does not cause lung cancer, but it does cause other kinds of lung damage.  It’s very implausible… it’s very implausible that nobody ever died of an accident that happened because he was stoned.

When we put up the numbers of deaths from tobacco, alcohol, and cannabis, we usually are counting the health-related deaths.  Like cirrhosis of the liver from alcoholism or lung cancer from smoking.  We’ll include the fatal alcohol overdoses, too.  But if you’d like us to start including the accidents and murders that are alcohol related, we can start doing that.  To be fair, we’ll include all the pot smokers who only smoked pot and died in accidents and all the pot smokers that murdered someone.

Now this man’s company is going to charge the taxpayers of Washington State $300 per hour to shape the marijuana business.


About Author

Executive Director: Russ Belville has been active in Oregon marijuana reform since 2005, when he was elected second-in-command of the state affiliate, Oregon NORML. After four years with Oregon NORML, Russ was hired by National NORML in 2009, working as Outreach Coordinator and hosting the NORML Daily Audio Stash podcast until 2012. Since then, Russ launched the 420RADIO marijuana legalization network and is the host of The Russ Belville Show, a live daily marijuana news talk radio program. Russ is also a prolific writer, with over 300 articles posted online and in print in HIGH TIMES, Huffington Post, Alternet, The Weed Blog, Marijuana Politics, and more.


  1. Legal production will not be cheaper since more shitty growers will poison the pond with increased pests and pollen flying around. Hemp will not be stopped so some pot head like me can bust out cash drug crops. And, people should expect prices similar to alcohol. Giving pot (cheap) away will not reduce drinking very much but it will reduce the amount of quality boutique growers. Besides, any course of action taken to reduce consumption must effect rich people equally. Raising prices will not do that. The rich will be able to over consume with ease at any marketable price. Duh_u_idiot is a voice of reason the likes of which I have just now observed in many years of talking and reading about this but I did see some other commenters that seemed to be on the same path. Outdoor pot is going into food, low grade hash oil, pills, or any mixed product that you can conceive of with THC. It will not be the sugar flower that people really want and the high price will be paid. THC is the only thing that can go dirt cheap, not top shelf flower. The west is the bottom of the barrel for price. $400/oz sounds like an after tax price in a large city. Its $250/oz average in Cali now and most of that is top shelf. People are buying untaxed, legal pot in a low regulation environment with no hemp industry around as well as in Oregon and Washington. This is the cheapest it will be or can be for top shelf flowers. The hemp industry will make dirty pot much more common and outdoor growers will see huge pressure to apply more pesticides as well as indoor growers.

    People arguing the black market will keep prices down seems like nonsense to me. I am to believe people will risk multiple felonies to make less money than they would growing/selling legally? In thought black markets were powered by their higher profit margins.

  2. And you might want to consider I already figured that out in the SEVEN MONTHS since I made the comment, friend.

  3. BAHAHA! what?!?! vaping taste and smells WAY better.vape for a week straight and go back to smoking bowls and it will taste like ass

  4. Actually there is a reason to get all scientific. Number one I’m an engineer. Number two it is important for medical. And number three I like it. I’m pro recreational (Bezerkeley ’67) but if we are going to get legalization the hold outs will have to be convinced. Thus the science. “Wow man what a f’n buzz. Too much.” will not sell the hold outs. I’m aiming at courts, judges, doctors, and lawyers. People who will need educating once legalization is in effect.

    In the mean time enjoy yourself. Here in the Midwest access is very limited. We take what ever is passing through. When we can get it.

  5. It’s obvious to me that what you are referring to as “filled” you actually mean what stoners call “burnout” of a particular crop of weed. Some strains will cause burnout quicker than others so knowing your weed and your preferences or reasons for using weed prevents burnout which is why everyone is always looking for a new crop to come in. No need to get all scientific bro, just loosen up & enjoy the buzz, get creative and try not to get lost down the rabbit hole….Peace

  6. Taking marijuana for familial ptsd caused by abusive childhood traumas works like aspirin for a head ache. I disagree that it is an “escape”. People can still perform unlike alcohol or barbiturates or other mind fogging chemicals. It helps a ptsd sufferer feel ‘normal’ more than it intoxicates as an escape like alcohol. The person can focus on important present things. It gives a break from the constantly replaying trauma memories so focus can be achieved and a sense of ‘normalcy’ and calm is experienced. Choom Ganger In Chief Hypocrite Obummer could focus enough to make it to Harvard Law Review and the US Presidency. Lots of Judges and lawyers and other professionals have enjoyed the exceedingly HEALTHFUL benefits of Cannabis low these many years without fear of property theft or prosecution…..us gov’t patent 6630507 established oct 7 2003 “Cannabinoids As Antioxidants and Neuroprotectants” owned by We the People as the USDHHS. This patent claims it helps protect our nerves and nervous systems and Is beneficial therapy for “stroke, trauma, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and AIDS dementia”. Johnny Green has an article listing tons of other cannabis related us gov’t patents.

  7. Education… There was nothing educational about your comment, precious. Though it’s cute you think I can’t simply glance up and see that your comment was nothing but petulant antagonism. You must have missed your afternoon nap or something.

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