Comment by Mark Kleiman

 He puts his finger on the nub of the question. If usage didn’t change, then
 the relaxation of control would be pure gain. But how can one predict with
 any confidence the extent or duration of the increase in drug use as a
 result of policy change? Historically, the change from beer to gin — a
 change of potency and a price decrease — sent shock waves through English
 society that took two generations and the introduction of Methodism to damp
 down. Alcohol is now taxed about about 10% of its retail value. If cocaine
 were subject to the same laws as alcohol, its price would fall by about
 95%, from its current illicit price of about $100 per gram to its current
 licit (pharmaceutical) price of $5 per gram, plus tax. It’s possible that
 this price change, plus the enormous change in the social consequences of
 using cocaine and the cultural messages surrounding it, would lead to only
 a small or temporary change in consumption, but it seems wildly unlikely.

 A question for Peter, Ethan, and John: What increase in the number of
 heavy cocaine users (currently about 2.5 million Americans use it more than
 weekly with an average consumption per heavy user of about 100-150 grams)
 would constitute a sufficiently bad outcome to justify the judgment that,
 on balance, loosening the control regime had been a mistake? (Specify a
 time-period as well as an increase in heavy use, if you like.)

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