December 8, 2013    By Fred Gardner   In 1995 Alexander Cockburn and I wrote a piece about the marketing of Prozac that was rejected by a Los Angeles Times editor named Patt Morrison. Ms Morrison now produces a weekly column for that shrinking publication. On Dec. 4 she weighed in with an  interview headlined “Mark Kleiman, pot’s go-to guy” (a literally absurd image). 

Kleiman is the UCLA professor whose consulting group the State of Washington hired to help draft regulations for a legal marijuana market. “He’s heard all the jokes about ‘hemperor’ and ‘your serene high-ness.’ Morrison states obsequiously. It’s hard to imagine anyone calling Mark Kleiman by these honorifics —every pot partisan knows that Jack Herer is the hemperor— but it’s easy to imagine the pudgy prof telling a woman that he’s bored by the adulation of the masses.

Here are some of Dr. Kleiman’s words of wisdom:

 • I once tried to make a list of the disciplines you would have to know to make good drug policy, and I stopped at 25. Medicine, psychology, pharmacology, law, international law, social psychology — there was no way people writing an initiative would have gone through the full analysis.

• I wanted to allow home delivery instead of stores.

• I was pushing for something fairly elaborate in the way of vendor training.

• I kept saying, we’re figuring out how to issue state licenses to commit federal felonies.

• The initiative allocates money from the cannabis tax to education, healthcare and drug treatment. What did I just leave out? Law enforcement. None was allocated to law enforcement. That reflects the politics of the people who do marijuana legalization initiatives. Law enforcement doesn’t get money [specifically] to arrest burglars; they arrest burglars because it’s part of their job. Still, I can understand their resentment. They’re undergoing budget cuts and here’s this initiative that puts more work on them, and the [tax] money goes to everybody else.

• I was worried at the beginning there would be so many regulations and taxes that the licit price was going to be above the illicit price. Unless you can capture the market from illicit sellers, it doesn’t matter what your regulations say.

• The law requires tracking every plant, seed to sale. The problem is, somebody gets a license and starts growing plants Jan. 1, they’re not ready to produce pot until April or May. Then it has to be cured, and they have to get it to the stores. I was worried that we were going to have stores open and nothing in them to sell. They’ve decided to allow people who are growing medical marijuana [Washington approved medical marijuana in 1998] to register them — a path to citizenship for undocumented plants.

• So there’s going to be pot in the stores and it’s going to be reasonably priced even after tax. Now you’re going to have to worry about what happens when it gets too cheap, which I predict it will around August. Tax revenue drops. And drug abuse goes up when stuff’s cheap.

• I’m worried that it’ll work too well. If the price falls to the point where the retail price is lower than the wholesale illicit price, then you’d have pot dealers from [other states] organizing teams of student [buyers]. In the federal government’s list of things they were worried about, access by kids and out-of-state exports were two of them.

• I say if you legalize it, the price is going to drop and you’re going to get a lot of drug abuse. [Marijuana proponents] say, “Well, prohibition is terrible.” And I say, that’s true; how are you going to fix the problem?

• I think we [California] will have an initiative by 2016. The task force writing it is dominated by straight-out legalizers, so we’re going to get something that looks like Colorado’s and Washington’s.

• Support for legalization keeps going up. As far as I can tell, the voter response is, “Oooh, I guess we legalized marijuana, didn’t we, and the sky didn’t fall.”

Still writing notes to Alex in my head, I Googled Patt Morrison and learned, “Her fashion trademark is wearing hats that coordinate with her clothing ensembles; she is always seen in public with one. She identifies herself as a lacto vegetarian. Pink’s Hot Dogs, a Hollywood landmark and establishment known for naming unique hot dog and topping combinations after local cultural icons, has named the vegetarian ‘Patt Morrison Baja Veggie hot dog’ after her.” 

The Kleiman type pegged by William Steig

The Kleiman type pegged by William Steig