Beau Kilmer

Photo of Beau Kilmer
McCauley Chair in Drug Policy Innovation; Director, RAND Drug Policy Research Center; Senior Policy Researcher
Santa Monica Office


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

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Beau Kilmer (he/him) is the McCauley Chair in Drug Policy Innovation, director of the RAND Drug Policy Research Center, and a senior policy researcher at the RAND Corporation. His research lies at the intersection of public health and public safety, with special emphasis on crime control, substance use, illegal markets, and public policy.

Some of his current projects include analyzing the consequences of cannabis legalization (with a special focus on social equity); measuring the effect of 24/7 Sobriety programs on DUI, domestic violence, and mortality; facilitating San Francisco's Street-level Drug Dealing Task Force; and evaluating the evidence and arguments made about implementing heroin-assisted treatment and supervised consumption sites.

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

Kilmer received a NHTSA Public Service Award for his “leadership and innovation in the areas of alcohol and drug-impaired driving program and policy research” and his coauthored work on 24/7 Sobriety received honourable mention for the Behavioural Exchange Award for Outstanding Research. 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, Greg Midgette, "Criminal deterrence: Insights from an individual-level analysis of 24/7 Sobriety," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, 2020

Keith Humphreys, Beau Kilmer, "Still HOPEful: Discussion of a “failed” replication of the swift, certain, and fair approach to reducing substance use among individuals under criminal justice supervision," Addiction, 2020

Beau Kilmer, Jirka Taylor, Jonathan P. Caulkins, Pam A. Mueller, Allison J. Ober, Bryce Pardo, Rosanna Smart, Lucy Strang, Peter H. Reuter, Considering Heroin-Assisted Treatment & Supervised Drug Consumption Sites in the United States, RAND (RR-2693), 2018

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

Nancy Nicosia, Beau Kilmer, Paul Heaton, "Can a Criminal Justice Alcohol Abstention Programme with Swift, Certain, and Moderate Sanctions (24/7 Sobriety) Reduce Population Mortality? A Retrospective Observational Study," The Lancet Psychiatry, 3, 2016

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

Honors & Awards

  • Best Article Award, Journal of Benefit-Cost Analysis (with P. Hunt & J. Saunders)
  • Public Service Award, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
  • Harold and Colene Brown Faculty Fellowship, Pardee RAND Graduate School

Recent Media Appearances

Interviews: The 1A; Al Jazeera; All Things Considered; CBC News Network Online; CBC Radio; CCTV International; CNN; Drug War Chronicle; KCBS-AM; KCRW-FM; KNBC-LA; KQED-FM; Los Angeles Times; Marketplace; MPR News; NBC Nightly News; NewsHub; New York Times; New Zealand Herald; NPR, Morning Edition; NPR News; On Point - WBUR-FM; Radio New Zealand; Rolling Stone; 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


  • Psilocybin mushrooms being placed into a pill box, photo by microgen/Getty Images

    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

  • Industrial Hemp (Cannabis sativa) being grown in Queenstown, MD USA

    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

  • A woman blowing into a breath monitor, photo by aijohn784/Getty Images

    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 in powder form, at the site of a suspected crime scene, photo by United States Drug Enforcement Agency

    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 Axios

  • Bags of fentanyl and heroin that were seized by authorities, photo by United States DEA

    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

  • Bags of fentanyl at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection area at the International Mail Facility at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago, Illinois, November 29, 2017, photo by Joshua Lott/Reuters

    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

  • A supervised injection site for people who use drugs, in Lausanne, Switzerland, September 28, 2018, photo by Denis Balibouse/Reuters

    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

  • Marijuana buds and their degree of potency are shown in a medical marijuana dispensary in Oakland, California, June 30, 2010

    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

  • A customer browses screens displaying recreational marijuana products at the MedMen store in West Hollywood, California, January 2, 2018

    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)

  • A man being arrested for drug possession

    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

  • U.S. Coast Guardsmen unload 3,500 pounds of cocaine seized from a vessel in the Caribbean valued at an estimated $43 million in Miami, March 16, 2012

    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

  • An electronic billboard displays a marijuana hashtag at Times Square in New York, November 7, 2016

    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

  • Displays at Shango Cannabis shop on the first day of legal recreational marijuana sales in Portland, Oregon, October 1, 2015

    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

  • A grower holds a plant for sale at the medical marijuana farmers market at the California Heritage Market in Los Angeles, California, July 11, 2014

    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

  • Marijuana on U.S. twenty dollar bills

    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

  • A police officer holds a pen and conducts a field sobriety test on a motorist

    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

  • Rows of cannabis plants in a greenhouse

    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

  • People look at products at the medical marijuana farmers market at the California Heritage Market in Los Angeles, California July 11, 2014

    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

  • Group of friends making a toast

    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 CNN

  • A worker tends to cannabis plants at a medical marijuana plantation near the northern Israeli city of Safed

    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

  • Labels with prices are placed next to marijuana for sale at the grand opening of The Cannabis Corner, the first city-owned recreational marijuana store in the country, in North Bonneville, Washington March 7, 2015

    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

  • 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

  • A medical history form asking about alcohol and drug use

    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

  • liquor and keys

    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

  • 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

  • A court gavel next to a cannabis leaf

    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

  • Closeup of a hand holding a lit marijuana cigarette

    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 plants

    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