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October 25, 2010

Rand Corporation: not exactly neutral on Proposition 19

Almost exactly a year ago, in a an entry predating the Proposition 19’s qualification for the ballot, I criticized a specific group of academics for their unfailing, albeit tacit, support of the drug war. A more recent entry, emphasizing both the drug war’s (and our species’) habitual dishonesty pointed out how dishonest "expertise" can be translated into support: by appearing to take a dishonest and chronically failing policy seriously, "reputable" academics automatically diminish the most telling criticisms that might be leveled against the policy in question while also shifting the burden to those who who oppose it. Beyond that, critics of drug policy can be (and often are) accused of supporting use of “drugs of abuse” by "kids," especially by federal agencies paid to support the policy.

Sure enough, in the the run-up to November 2, in which Proposition 19 has emerged as the issue commanding the most voter interest but the fewest advertising dollars, the original gang of four, together with a newcomer, has been hard at work in their usual vein. Typically, they are also being fronted by the same think tank where I first encountered the genre in 1995: Santa Monica’s Rand Corporation, a major recipient of federal dollars.

A telling example of how Rand researchers manage to make conflicting statements is revealed by comparing two recent publications on Prop 19: in a paper published in July the Rand group suggested that passage of the initiative could dramatically lower the price of marijuana while increasing consumption. In the press release accompanying publication, they were quoted as estimating a ten-fold reduction in the price per ounce.

We didn't have long to wait for the inevitable switcheroo: another paper published by the same group in October opines that even if Proposition 215 were to pass, it wouldn't have much impact on the activities of the Mexican drug cartels now engaged in a bloody turf battle over lucrative smuggling corridors into the United States. They also estimated (in the press release) that the revenue estimated to accrue to cartels from marijuana smuggling is actually far less than has been estimated without citing any basis for that estimate. In essence, the Rand researchers were contradicting themselves without appearing to do so.

Of course, both papers cite the notorious uncertainty of any estimates about supply or demand related to illegal markets without ever acknowledging that the policy they have consistently supported is responsible for both the markets and the crime they generate.

These academic shills for the drug war have a share of responsibility for the totally corrupt policy they support so deviously and consistently. Never in their "research" have they ever bothered to ask the most pertinent questions about "marijuana" as an illegal product: just when did its popularity with adolescents begin? (it was the mid-Sixties). Also: why was that popularity delayed for thirty years? Finally: why has marijuana, of all drugs of abuse, retained such customer loyalty throughout the four decades since Nixon?

One would have thought that such basic questions would have long since occurred to recognized "experts" with advanced degrees in public policy. Didn't science begin only after Galileo had enough data to question the Catholic Church's time-honored (but false) assumption about Earth's relation to the Sun?

Doctor Tom

Posted by tjeffo at October 25, 2010 02:00 AM