Marijuana advocates who call for cannabis to be regulated like alcohol are probably unaware of all of the development and trial and error that got us to where we are today with alcohol regulation. We have learned a lot about what works and what doesn’t. We now have a great deal of research to help us solve problems and design systems. For example, in the past many states dropped the age limit for alcohol purchase to 18 or 19. After this change, alcohol was a factor in two-thirds of traffic deaths of 16-20 year olds. After the drinking age was raised to 21 nationwide, fatalities were cut in half. Research tells us that regular use of alcohol damages the developing adolescent brain; something we didn’t know as much about before sophisticated brain imaging was developed.
Yet, rather than going slow with a very limited program of regulated sale of marijuana, advocates would have us gallop full speed ahead to full-blown commercialization. The alcohol regulation that the marijuana legalization folks want to copy comes in large part from the seminal work funded by John D. Rockefeller entitled Toward Liquor Control (recently reprinted by the Center for Alcohol Policy). There is no similar research work guiding marijuana regulation.