D.C.’s Gift Economy In Marijuana May Benefit Heavy Users


In Washington, D.C., it's legal to possess marijuana, to grow it, to smoke it and to give it away. You're not allowed to trade in it. You can give your neighbor up to an ounce, but if he gives you money or even bakes you a pie in exchange, that's illegal, says the New York Times. D.C. is aiming for a gift economy. After Congress passed a law barring D.C. from spending money to regulate marijuana, that left the city with noncommercial legalization as its only option after voters repealed the law prohibiting marijuana in the district last November. Mark Kleiman, an expert on drug policy at the University of California, Los Angeles, has been arguing for Washington's “grow-and-give” approach for years.

He is among researchers affiliated with the RAND Corporation who have been urging states to look for intermediate options between prohibition and commercial legalization. They urge states to consider approaches like nonprofit cooperatives, a government monopoly on marijuana production or a grow-your-own rule like the one Washington has ended up with. Kleiman warns that full-scale commercial legalization comes with costs. The main risk is that marijuana businesses will, as alcohol and tobacco companies did, successfully market their products to heavy users who would be better off using less, and that they will resist regulations that discourage problem use.

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