Taking a sober look at legalizing marijuana (SFGate)

By BEAU KILMER | July 12, 2014

Legal sales of recreational marijuana began Tuesday in Washington state. Can California and others be far behind? Photo: Elaine Thompson, Associated Press

Legal sales of recreational marijuana began Tuesday in Washington state. Can California and others be far behind? Photo: Elaine Thompson, Associated Press

Marijuana is in the news and you should get used to it. Washington state’s retail marijuana stores opened Tuesday and Alaska will vote on legalization in November. Throw in monthly revenue updates from Colorado as well as perpetual exposes about marijuana edibles and e-joints, and you are going to get your weekly pot fix whether you like it or not.

And this is only going to intensify over time.

California and a handful of other states will probably vote on legal pot in 2016. Whether it passes will depend on several factors, including the quality of the proposal, how much money is involved in the campaigns, and how things play out in Colorado, Washington and other places that have legalized production and sales. For states that will probably decide on marijuana policy, here are five suggestions to help policymakers who want to promote productive discussions:

1. Collect baseline information about the size of the marijuana market in your state. Credible projections about how legalization could influence use and tax revenues must be rooted in rigorous and transparent estimates of how much marijuana is currently being consumed. Without these numbers, pot debates can get hijacked by wild overestimates. While it is hard to estimate the value of a black market, there is an emerging science about how to do this for marijuana.

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