Beau Kilmer

Beau Kilmer
Codirector, RAND Drug Policy Research Center; Senior Policy Researcher; Professor of Policy Analysis, Pardee RAND Graduate School


Ph.D. in public policy, Harvard University; M.P.P. in public policy, 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 (he/him) is the Chair in Drug Policy Innovation, codirector of the RAND Drug Policy Research Center, a senior policy researcher at RAND, and a professor of policy analysis at the Pardee RAND Graduate School.

His research lies at the intersection of public health and public safety, with special emphasis on substance use, illegal markets, crime control, and public policy. Some of his current projects include assessing the consequences of cannabis legalization (with a special focus on social equity); measuring the effect of 24/7 Sobriety programs on impaired driving, domestic violence, and mortality; analyzing changes in illegal fentanyl markets; and considering the implications of legalizing psychedelics.

Kilmer's publications have appeared in the New England Journal of Medicine, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, and Science. His commentaries have been published by CNNLos Angeles TimesNew York TimesSan Francisco Chronicle, USA Today, Wall Street Journal, among others. Two editions of his coauthored book on cannabis legalization were published by Oxford University Press; his coauthored book on the future of fentanyl and other synthetic opioids was published by RAND.

Kilmer is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine Committee on Public Health Consequences of Changes in the Cannabis Policy Landscape. In 2023, he was elected as vice president of the International Society for the Study of Drug Policy. He received his Ph.D. in public policy from Harvard University, M.P.P. from UC-Berkeley, and B.A. in international relations from Michigan State University.

Selected Publications

Beau Kilmer, Bryce Pardo, "Clarifying “Safer Supply” to Enrich Policy Discussions," Addiction, 2023

Jonathan Caulkins, Beau Kilmer, Peter Reuter, "Modeling Cartel Size to Inform Violence Reduction in Mexico," Science, 2023

Nancy Nicosia, Beau Kilmer, Greg Midgette, Marika Suttorp Booth, "Association of an Alcohol Abstinence Program With Mortality in Individuals Arrested for Driving While Alcohol Impaired," JAMA Psychiatry, 2023

Beau Kilmer, Greg Midgette, "Criminal Deterrence: Insights from an Individual-level Analysis of 24/7 Sobriety," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, 2020

Beau Kilmer, "Recreational Cannabis--Minimizing the Health Risks from Legalization," The New England Journal of Medicine, 376, 2017

Jonathan P. Caulkins, Beau Kilmer, Mark A.R. Kleiman, Marijuana Legalization: What Everyone Needs to Know (2nd Edition), Oxford University Press, 2016

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

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

Recent Media Appearances

Interviews: The 1A; Al Jazeera; All Things Considered; CBC News Network Online; CBC Radio;; CCTV International; CNN; C-SPAN; Drug War Chronicle; KCBS-AM; KCRW-FM; KNBC-LA; KQED-FM; Los Angeles Times; Marketplace; MPR News; Minnesota Public Radio; NBC Nightly News; NewsHub; New York Times; New Zealand Herald; NPR, Morning Edition; NPR News; On Point - WBUR-FM; Radio New Zealand; Rolling Stone; SacTown Talks; The Telegraph, UK; Tradeoffs; Undark; Vermont Public Radio; WAMU-FM; WCNY (PBS) - Syracuse, NY; WFAE-FM Online; WTVN-AM; WHYY-TV Online

Commentary: BBC; Berkeley Review of Latin American Studies; Britannica Book of the Year; CNN; The Conversation; Foreign Policy; Huffington Post; Los Angeles Times; New York Times; San Francisco Chronicle; USA Today; Wall Street Journal


  • Drug Markets and Supply

    Treat Psychedelics Like Cannabis?

    Similar to cannabis a decade ago, the United States is in the early days of legalizing some psychedelics for nonmedical purposes. Now is the time to make thoughtful choices.

    Dec 13, 2023

    Vital City

  • Controlled Substances and Illegal Drugs

    State and Local Policy Is Changing for Psychedelics. What Will the Feds Do?

    Psychedelics are attracting interest as a treatment for some mental health conditions. In response, some states and cities are changing their laws and policies on the supply and use of these mind-altering substances. But like cannabis, most psychedelics are federally prohibited—raising some tough questions for the federal government.

    Jun 12, 2023

    San Francisco Chronicle

  • Alcohol

    Everyone Over 21 Has a 'License to Drink.' When Should It Get Suspended?

    Excessive drinking creates massive economic costs because of its effects on workplace productivity, health care expenditures, and crime. This raises the question: Should some people be required to stop drinking?

    Mar 11, 2023

    USA Today

  • Drug Markets and Supply

    What's Next After Biden's Announcement on Cannabis and Racial Equity?

    Cannabis legalization isn't just a yes-or-no choice. There are many ways for state and federal policymakers to shape the market and tax it. With deliberations in Washington, D.C., beginning and more states set to vote on the issue in November, now is the time for lawmakers to take stock of how potential changes will or won't help communities of color.

    Oct 11, 2022

    NBC News THINK

  • Drug Policy and Trends

    What Chesa Boudin's Replacement Can Do About Open-Air Drug Dealing

    Successfully addressing open-air drug dealing in San Francisco will likely require transparency about consequences that drug dealers face; a rethinking of how such crimes are sanctioned; and collaboration between prosecutors, police, and the community.

    Jun 10, 2022

    San Francisco Chronicle

  • Opioids

    Treating Supervised Drug Consumption Sites like Cannabis

    Some communities hard hit by the opioid crisis are interested in opening supervised consumption sites—places where people who use drugs can do so under supervision of trained staff. What could be done to make it easier to pilot and evaluate these sites in the United States?

    Oct 22, 2021

    Philadelphia Inquirer

  • Controlled Substances and Illegal Drugs

    Being Mindful About Changing Psychedelic Policy in California

    The question for California isn't really if psychedelic policy will change, but more likely how—and how quickly. Now is the time for the California State Legislature to consider holding hearings on psychedelics and creating a commission to assess regulatory options.

    Nov 10, 2020

    The Sacramento Bee

  • Cannabis

    Don't Entangle COVID-19 Relief with Cannabis Legalization

    Cannabis legalization is a multifaceted decision that has implications for health, safety, and social equity. Whether legalization could fund COVID-19 relief should not be a major focus of debates.

    Aug 28, 2020

    Philadelphia Inquirer

  • Substance Use Harm Reduction

    Revoking the 'License to Drink': Emerging Evidence on Mandatory Sobriety

    After counties in South Dakota implemented a 24/7 sobriety program, repeat arrests for impaired driving decreased in the counties by an average of 12%. North Dakota implemented a similar program and also saw decreases in impaired driving. Can the same results be achieved outside of the Dakotas?

    Jun 29, 2020

    Institute of Alcohol Studies

  • Fentanyl and Other Synthetic Opioids

    Synthetic Opioid Crisis Still Growing, Often Among Unwitting Users

    Although opioid prescriptions in the U.S. have fallen, opioid overdose deaths remain at historic levels. The continued spread of fentanyl and other illicitly manufactured synthetic opioids suggests the problem could still get worse.

    Oct 14, 2019


  • Fentanyl and Other Synthetic Opioids

    Tackle Fentanyl like a Poisoning Outbreak, Not a Drug Epidemic

    America's fentanyl problem is far deadlier than past crises with other illegal drugs. New ideas, be they public policies, technologies or law enforcement strategies, are desperately needed. Continuing to treat fentanyl just like previous drug epidemics will likely be insufficient and may condemn thousands more to early deaths.

    Sep 3, 2019

    Los Angeles Times

  • Drug Markets and Supply

    China's Ban on Fentanyl Drugs Won't Likely Stem America's Opioid Crisis

    Given China's recent decision to ban the unauthorized manufacture of fentanyl, authorities there appear to recognize a growing problem. But China cannot solve the U.S. opioid problem. The United States could do more to reduce demand for opioids as well as drug users' exposure to these powerful drugs.

    May 22, 2019

    Los Angeles Times

  • Addressing Federal Conflicts Over Supervised Drug Consumption Sites

    With drug overdose deaths mounting, some American cities are trying to create designated spaces where people who use heroin and other drugs can have their consumption supervised by medical professionals. The Department of Justice argues these sites would violate federal law, but federal decisionmakers have several options.

    Mar 14, 2019

    The Hill

  • Cannabis

    Navigating Cannabis Legalization 2.0

    As the next round of states debate marijuana legalization, they would do well to contemplate allowing state governments to control the wholesale prices and linking the price of cannabis to its potency.

    Dec 4, 2018

    The Hill

  • Cannabis

    How Will Cannabis Legalization Affect Alcohol Consumption?

    How will legalization of recreational marijuana affect alcohol consumption? Will drinking go down because people substitute cannabis for alcohol? Or will drinking go up because cannabis and alcohol complement each other? These questions have important implications.

    Feb 13, 2018

    GreenState (San Francisco Chronicle)

  • Drug Courts

    Should California Drop Criminal Penalties for Drug Possession?

    Californians have a lot to consider when it comes to decriminalizing possession. But now is the time for a rigorous discussion about removing criminal penalties for drug possession, rather than rushing to judgment in the heat of a future election season.

    Jul 20, 2017

    San Francisco Chronicle

  • Cocaine

    Mixed Messages: Is Cocaine Consumption in the U.S. Going Up or Down?

    Data lags and the elimination of the ADAM program complicate estimates of U.S. cocaine consumption. New users who haven't yet developed cocaine dependence are also a factor. It may be prudent to start planning for an increase in heavy use even before all of the evidence is in.

    Apr 28, 2017

    Brookings - Up Front

  • Cannabis

    Trump's Marijuana Options

    The new administration has at least six options for addressing marijuana. These are not mutually exclusive, and each comes with tradeoffs. All six are compatible with a federal approach that encourages discussions about prohibition and its alternatives.

    Jan 17, 2017

    The Hill

  • Cannabis

    The Legal Marijuana Middle Ground

    There are many ways to legalize marijuana supply besides the for-profit approach. But to learn what effects various models have, the federal government will have to make it easier for states to implement some middle-ground options.

    Dec 1, 2016

    USA Today

  • Cannabis

    Your Questions About Marijuana Legalization, Answered

    At least five states will vote on legal recreational marijuana this November. Drug policy expert Beau Kilmer hosted an “Ask Me Anything” session on Reddit to shed light on this and other issues.

    Sep 13, 2016

  • Cannabis

    Promises and Pitfalls of Cannabis Taxes

    Setting the cannabis tax should not be considered a one-time event. Smart jurisdictions will revise their decisions over time to incorporate new data about taxes, testing, and the cannabis plant itself — without being influenced by those seeking to maximize profits.

    Aug 22, 2016

    San Francisco Chronicle

  • Alcohol

    Should Some Californians Lose Their 'License to Drink'?

    In California, many efforts to reduce repeat drunken driving focus on the driving. What if the state targeted the 'drunk' aspect instead?

    Jul 6, 2016

    San Diego Union-Tribune

  • Cannabis

    Researcher Q&A: Beau Kilmer on the State of Marijuana Legalization

    Beau Kilmer, co-director of the RAND Drug Policy Research Center and a co-author of the nonpartisan primer Marijuana Legalization: What Everyone Needs to Know addresses developments in marijuana policy and why reasonable people can disagree about legalization.

    May 26, 2016

  • Cannabis

    If California Legalizes Marijuana, Consumption Will Likely Increase. But Is That a Bad Thing?

    Legalizing and allowing profit-maximizing firms to produce, sell, and advertise recreational marijuana would likely increase marijuana consumption. But how would this increased consumption influence the use of other substances?

    May 16, 2016

    Los Angeles Times

  • Alcohol

    Could You Lose Your License to Drink?

    Criminal justice reform requires creating demand for bold ideas about simultaneously reducing incarceration and crime. Given the prominent role alcohol plays in crime — and the strong results from South Dakota's 24/7 Sobriety program — suspending one's “license to drink” seems well worth considering.

    Jun 23, 2015


  • Drug Policy and Trends

    The 10 Ps of Marijuana Legalization

    Marijuana policy is a growing topic of discussion, and laws are starting to change. Ten choices confronting jurisdictions considering legalization cover many of the critical decisions that will determine whether removing prohibition is a good idea.

    Jun 22, 2015

    Berkeley Review of Latin American Studies

  • Drug Policy and Trends

    Unprecedented Changes in Marijuana Policy

    The marijuana policy landscape changed dramatically in 2014. Legal sales for nonmedical purposes began in Colorado and in Washington state. Voters in Washington, D.C., Alaska, and Oregon passed initiatives to liberalize their marijuana laws. Uruguay also started implementing its marijuana legalization law.

    Apr 30, 2015

    Britannica Book of the Year

  • Drug Policy and Trends

    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

  • Cannabis

    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

  • 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

  • Drug Policy and Trends

    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

  • Cannabis

    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


  • Drug Courts

    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

  • Illegal Drug Trade

    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

  • Cannabis

    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

  • Cannabis

    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

    The RAND Blog

  • Cannabis

    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

  • Cannabis

    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