The New Yorker: Buzzkill

By PATRICK RADDEN KEEFE – November 18, 2013

Washington’s law gave state officials only a year to answer difficult questions: Who could grow legal pot? Who could sell it? How much would an ounce of the drug cost?

Washington State discovers that it’s not so easy to create a legal marijuana economy.

One morning in August, Mark Kleiman, a professor of public policy at U.C.L.A., addressed the Seattle city council on the subject of marijuana. Kleiman is one of the country’s most prominent and outspoken analysts of drug policy, and for three decades he has argued that America’s cannabis laws must be liberalized. Kleiman’s campaign used to seem quixotic, but in November, 2012, voters in Washington and Colorado passed initiatives legalizing the use and commercial sale of marijuana. Immediately afterward, the State of Washington decided that it needed help setting up a pot economy. State bureaucrats don’t generally sit around pondering the improbable, so they had made no contingency plans. A call for proposals was issued. Kleiman assembled a team that beat out more than a hundred other contenders for the job. He calls himself a “policy entrepreneur,” and offers advice through a consultancy that he runs, BOTEC Analysis Corp. In a nod to the ambiguity inherent in studying illicit economies, BOTEC stands for Back of the Envelope Calculation.

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