Beau Kilmer

Photo of Beau Kilmer
Codirector, RAND Drug Policy Research Center; Senior Policy Researcher, RAND; Professor, Pardee RAND Graduate School
Santa Monica Office


Ph.D. in public policy, Harvard University; M.P.P., University of California, Berkeley; B.A. in international relations, Michigan State University

Media Resources

This researcher is available for interviews.

To arrange an interview, contact the RAND Office of Media Relations at (310) 451-6913, or email

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Beau Kilmer is a senior policy researcher at the RAND Corporation, where he codirects the RAND Drug Policy Research Center. He is also a professor at the Pardee RAND Graduate School. His research lies at the intersection of public health and public safety, with a special emphasis on substance use, illicit markets, crime, and public policy. Some of his current projects include estimating the size of illegal drug markets; assessing the consequences of alternative marijuana policies; measuring the effect of South Dakota's 24/7 Sobriety Program on drunk driving, domestic violence, and mortality; and evaluating other innovative programs intended to reduce crime and violence. Kilmer's research has appeared in leading journals such as Addiction, American Journal of Public Health, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, and his commentaries have been published by CNN, Los Angeles Times, New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and other outlets. His co-authored book on marijuana legalization (with Jonathan Caulkins, Angela Hawken, and Mark Kleiman) was published by Oxford University Press and the second edition will be released in 2016. Before earning his doctorate at Harvard University, Kilmer received a Judicial Administration Fellowship that supported his work with the San Francisco Drug Court.

Recent Projects

  • Assessing the effects of marijuana legalization
  • Estimating the size of illegal drug markets in the US and EU
  • Evaluating innovative approaches to reducing substance use among criminal offenders
  • Calculating the cost-effectiveness of brief interventions for youth
  • Evaluating programs intended to reduce violence

Selected Publications

Beau Kilmer, Peter Reuter, Luca Giommoni, "What Can be Learned from Cross-National Comparisons of Data on Illegal Drugs?" Crime and Justice (forthcoming)

Jonathan Caulkins, Beau Kilmer, Peter Reuter, Gregory Midgette, "Cocaine's Fall and Marijuana's Rise: Questions and Insights Based on New Estimates of Consumption and Expenditures in U.S. Drug Markets," Addiction, 2014

Rosalie Pacula, Beau Kilmer, Alex Wagenaar, Frank Chaloupka, Jonathan Caulkins, "Developing Public Health Regulations for Marijuana: Lessons from Alcohol and Tobacco," American Journal of Public Health, 104, 2014

Beau Kilmer, Nancy Nicosia, Paul Heaton, Greg Midgette, "Efficacy of Frequent Monitoring with Swift, Certain, and Modest Sanctions for Violations: Insights from South Dakota's 24/7 Sobriety Project," American Journal of Public Health, 103, 2013

Jonathan P. Caulkins, Angela Hawken, Beau Kilmer, Mark A.R. Kleiman, Marijuana Legalization: What Everyone Needs to Know, Oxford University Press, 2012

Beau Kilmer, Jonathan P. Caulkins, Rosalie Liccardo Pacula, Robert J. MacCoun, Peter H. Reuter, Altered State? Assessing How Marijuana Legalization in California Could Influence Marijuana Consumption and Public Budgets, RAND (OP-315), 2010

Mark Kleiman, Beau Kilmer, "The Dynamics of Deterrence," Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 106, 2009

Beau Kilmer, "Does Parolee Drug Testing Influence Employment and Education Outcomes? Evidence from a Randomized Experiment with Noncompliance," Journal of Quantitative Criminology, 24, 2008

Recent Media Appearances

Interviews: Al Jazeera; All Things Considered; CNN; Los Angeles Times; NBC Nightly News; New York Times; New Zealand Herald; Rolling Stone

Commentary: BBC; CNN; Foreign Policy; Huffington Post; New York Times; San Francisco Chronicle; The Conversation; USA Today; Wall Street Journal


  • Employees stock their shelves with 2-gram packages of marijuana at Cannabis City during the first day of legal retail marijuana sales in Seattle, Washington July 8, 2014

    Taking a Sober Look at Legalizing Marijuana

    California and a handful of other states will probably vote on legal pot in 2016. Here are five suggestions to help policymakers who want to promote productive discussions.

    Jul 13, 2014 | San Francisco Chronicle

  • Nate Johnson, managing owner of the Queen Anne Cannabis Club in Seattle, Washington

    Legalising Cannabis Is More Than Just a Yes or No Decision

    Any truly honest discussion about how to regulate cannabis markets must start with clear objectives and goals. How these markets are opened can be as important as the decision to legalise cannabis.

    May 2, 2014 | The Conversation

  • woman with a lighter and a spoon preparing a dose of heroin

    Hard Drugs Demand Solid Understanding

    Due to budget concerns the federal government just shut down a critical data source that provides insights into abuse, dependence on, and spending on heroin and other hard drugs like crack and methamphetamine.

    Mar 10, 2014 | USA Today

  • Proprietors of the first marijuana retailers licensed to sell pot for recreational use in Colorado

    The Feds' Role After Legalization

    Since Colorado and Washington allow profit-maximizing firms to grow and sell marijuana, there is concern they will use advertising to promote consumption by heavy users. With help from the federal government, the states will be better positioned to head off the negative consequences associated with commercialization.

    Jan 15, 2014 |

  • A man lights a marijuana cigarette.

    Has U.S. Gone Further Than Netherlands Over Marijuana?

    Colorado and Washington will remove the prohibition on commercial marijuana production and distribution for nonmedical purposes and start regulating and taxing it. Not even the Netherlands goes that far, writes Beau Kilmer.

    Oct 18, 2013 | CNN

  • inmates outside the Orleans Parish Prison

    New Approach to Prison and the War on Drugs

    If you want to reduce cocaine consumption and drug-related crime, you get more bang for the buck if you put money into treatment rather than paying for the increase in incarceration produced by federal mandatory minimum sentences, writes Beau Kilmer.

    Aug 13, 2013 |

  • protest against violence in Juarez, Mexico

    Legalization in the U.S. and Crime in Mexico

    Driving Mexican marijuana out of the U.S. would probably reduce the traffickers' export revenue by a few billion dollars a year, writes Beau Kilmer. But would reducing that revenue lead to a corresponding decrease in trafficker violence?

    May 23, 2013 |

  • Visuals showing suppprt for marijuana legalization in Washington state and how tax revenues will benefit the community

    7 Key Questions on Marijuana Legalization

    Policymakers in Washington and Colorado are confronting some new and tricky issues that have never been addressed. For them, and for anyone else thinking about changing their pot laws, there are seven key decision areas that will shape the costs and benefits of marijuana legalization.

    Apr 26, 2013 | USA Today

  • A New Approach to Reducing Drunk Driving and Domestic Violence

    Beau Kilmer, codirector of the RAND Drug Policy Research Center, discusses South Dakota's 24/7 Sobriety Project, which requires those arrested for or convicted of alcohol-related offenses to take twice-a-day breathalyzer tests or wear a continuous monitoring bracelet. Those who fail or skip their tests are immediately subject to modest sanctions—typically a day or two in jail.

    Nov 15, 2012

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    How Might the Federal Government React if States Legalize Marijuana?

    This November, Washington state, Oregon, and Colorado voters will consider ballot measures to legalize the production, distribution, and possession of marijuana for nonmedical purposes. Even if voters pass these measures at the state level, marijuana will still be prohibited by the federal government, writes Beau Kilmer.

    Sep 13, 2012 |

  • In Brief: Beau Kilmer on Marijuana Legalization

    Beau Kilmer, senior policy researcher and codirector of the RAND Drug Policy Research Center, discusses what makes marijuana legalization so dramatically different from mere decriminalization.

    Jul 25, 2012

  • Important Facts About Marijuana Legalization

    An excerpt from Marijuana Legalization: What Everyone Needs to Know, by Jonathan P. Caulkins, Angela Hawken, Beau Kilmer, Mark A. R. Kleiman, published by Oxford University Press (c) 2012 Oxford University Press.

    Jul 13, 2012 | Huffington Post

  • The Marijuana Exception

    Being honest about the uncertainties involved is the price of admission to any serious discussion about marijuana legalization, writes Beau Kilmer.

    Apr 23, 2012 | The Wall Street Journal

  • Prime Numbers: Doped

    The illicit drug trade is the ultimate value-added chain. As cocaine and heroin make their perilous journeys from the fields of Colombia and Afghanistan to markets in U.S. and European cities, each border crossed and each trafficker involved adds dollars to a price, write Beau Kilmer And Peter Reuter.

    Oct 19, 2009 | Foreign Policy