Tuesday, March 20, 2018
The title of this post is the title of this notable new paper authored by Benjamin Hansen, Keaton Miller and Caroline Weber. Here is its abstract:
Over the last few years, marijuana has become legally available for recreational use to roughly a quarter of Americans. Policy makers have long expressed concerns about the substantial external costs of alcohol, and similar costs could come with the liberalization of marijuana policy. Indeed, the fraction of fatal accidents in which at least one driver tested positive for THC has increased nationwide by an average of 10 percent from 2013 to 2016. For Colorado and Washington, both of which legalized marijuana in 2014, these increases were 92 percent and 28 percent, respectively. However, identifying a causal effect is difficult due to the presence of significant confounding factors.
We test for a causal effect of marijuana legalization on traffic fatalities in Colorado and Washington with a synthetic control approach using records on fatal traffic accidents from 2000-2016. We find the synthetic control groups saw similar changes in marijuana-related, alcohol-related and overall traffic fatality rates despite not legalizing recreational marijuana.
Some prior related posts:
Friday, March 16, 2018
The title of this post is the title of this interesting new piece authored by Loren Collingwood, Ben Gonzalez O’Brien and Sarah Dreier published int The International Journal of Drug Policy. Here is the abstract:
In 2012, Washington and Colorado became the first U.S. states to legalise recreational marijuana. By 2016, eight states and the District of Columbia had legalised recreational marijuana, with more expected to consider it in 2018. Despite this trend, little academic research explains what drives ballot-initiative vote choice on marijuana legalisation.
This paper uses a pre-election random sample voter survey to examine the individual characteristics that correlated with Washington voters’ support for legal recreational marijuana.
We find that voting on marijuana ballot initiatives largely reflects public opinion about marijuana and is particularly shaped voters’ political ideology, party affiliation, religious affiliation and practice, and education. Notably, we find that those reporting experiences (i.e., someone they know) with the criminal justice system are more supportive of legalisation than those who do not.
We conclude that marijuana legalisation voting behavior generally aligns with public opinion on the issue. However, one key aspect of Washington’s legalisation campaign–the criminal injustices of marijuana illegality–helped shape Washington state voting behavior. Further research is needed to examine if, when, and in what contexts criminal justice campaign themes are likely to strengthen or undermine future states’ marijuana legalisation efforts.
March 16, 2018 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Polling data and results, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)
Wednesday, March 14, 2018
The leading national group opposed to modern marijuana reform, Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM), today released this big new report titled "Lessons from Marijuana Legalization in Four U.S. States and D.C." Here is how this big report was introduced and described via an email sent my way (with links from the original):
Today, Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM), the leading, nonpartisan U.S. organization offering a science-based approach to marijuana policy, released the most comprehensive study to date today entitled: Lessons from Marijuana Legalization in Four U.S. States and D.C. This study, validated by scientists from around the country, found that since legalization, marijuana use has soared, the black market is thriving, and communities of color are being negatively affected.The study found that legalized states are leading the nation in past-year marijuana use among every age group. Among those states, Colorado currently holds the lead for first-time marijuana use among youth aged 12-17, representing a 65% increase since legalization. Young adult use is also highest in legalized states. Further, the number of young people arrested for marijuana use in Colorado saw an increase from 2015-2016.Not only are more young people being arrested for marijuana use in states that have legalized the substance, but Colorado has also seen an increase in the amount of youth on probation who have tested positive for the drug.This rise in youth use of marijuana is particularly frightening to see given the longterm implications involved with young people becoming addicted to marijuana. "Since commercialization, those of us in addiction treatment have been seeing an increase in the number of patients who have become addicted to marijuana. Their symptoms, particularly sleep disturbance, appetite disturbance and psychosis, don't consistently remit after ninety days of treatment," said Bari Platter, Clinical Nurse Specialist at the University of Colorado Hospital's CeDAR (Center for Dependency, Addiction and Rehabilitation). "We need to do more research about the devastating long-term effects of marijuana before considering commercialization in other states," continued Platter.Some supporters of legalization have argued that the relaxing of marijuana laws would lead to lower rates of alcohol consumption. The data prove otherwise. In the immediate year following legalization of marijuana, there was a clear drop off, but by year three alcohol consumption was at a multi-year high.Commercialization advocates have long argued that legalization will reduce black market marijuana activity in legalized states. However, criminal activity has only been amplified. In 2016 alone, Colorado law enforcement confiscated 7,116 pounds of marijuana, carried out 252 felony arrests, and made 346 highway interdictions of marijuana headed to 36 different U.S. states. The U.S. mail system has also been affected by the black market, seeing an 844% increase in postal marijuana seizures. Narcotics officers in Colorado have been busy responding to the 50% increase in illegal growing operations across rural areas in the state.
One of the most common arguments prevalent amongst the pro-marijuana lobby is that the legalization of the substance will greatly assist communities of color. The study found that the common disparities among use and criminal offense rates continue among race, ethnicity, and income levels. The District of Columbia saw public consumption and distribution arrests nearly triple and a disproportionate number of those marijuana-related arrests occur among African-Americans.
Finally, the study found a disturbing trend in that drugged driving and motor vehicle fatalities have increased in states that have legalized recreational marijuana. The number of drivers in Colorado intoxicated with marijuana and involved in fatal traffic crashes increased 88% from 2013-2015 and marijuana-related traffic deaths increased 66% between the four-year averages before and after legalization.
March 14, 2018 in Criminal justice developments and reforms, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (1)
Tuesday, March 13, 2018
The title of this post is the title of this new paper recently posted to SSRN authored by Rick Grucza, Melissa Krauss, Andrew Plunk, Arpana Agrawal, Frank J. Chaloupka and Laura Bierut. Here is the abstract:
Background: A number of public health professional organizations support the decriminalization of cannabis due to adverse effects of cannabis-related arrests and legal consequences, particularly on youth. We sought to examine the associations between cannabis decriminalization and both arrests and youth cannabis use in five states that passed decriminalization measures between the years 2008 and 2014: Massachusetts (decriminalized in 2008), Connecticut (2011), Rhode Island (2013), Vermont (2013), and Maryland (2014).
Methods: Data on cannabis use were obtained from state Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) surveys, years 2007-2015; arrest data were obtained from federal crime statistics. Using a “difference in difference” regression framework, we contrasted trends in decriminalization states with those from states that did not adopt major policy changes during the observation period.
Results: Decriminalization was associated with an immediate and strong reduction in the rate of drug-related arrests for youth (OR=0.38; 95% CI: 0.37, 0.39) and adults (OR=0.40; 95% CI: 0.38, 0.42). Decriminalization was not associated with any increase in the past-30 day prevalence of cannabis use (OR=0.99; 95% CI: 0.95, 1.04). Significant declines in prevalence were observed for Rhode Island (OR=0.92; 95% CI; 0.87, 0.97) and Vermont (OR=0.91, 95% CI; 0.87, 0.95).
Conclusions: Decriminalization of cannabis in Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Maryland resulted in large decreases in drug-related arrests for both youth and adults, suggesting that the policy change had its intended consequences. Our analysis did not find any increase in the prevalence of youth cannabis use during the observation period.
Wednesday, February 28, 2018
New report suggests big increase in pedestrian fatalities in marijuana legalization states... but only by leaving out California
This new press release, headlined "No National Progress in Reducing Pedestrian Fatalities," details the finding of this new report by the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) which "projects nearly 6,000 pedestrians were killed in motor vehicle crashes in the U.S. in 2017, marking the second year in a row at numbers not seen in 25 years." Here is more from the press release that advocates for marijuana reform should consider:
States reported a total of 2,636 pedestrian fatalities for the first six months of 2017. Adjusting the raw data based on past data trends, GHSA projects that pedestrian deaths in 2017 will total 5,984, essentially unchanged from 2016, in which 5,987 people on foot lost their lives in motor vehicle crashes. Pedestrians now account for approximately 16% of all motor vehicle deaths, compared with 11% just a few years ago.
Two recent trends present an interesting correlation with rising pedestrian fatalities: the growth in smartphone use nationally and the legalization of recreational marijuana in several states. While the report does not find or imply a definitive link between these factors and pedestrian deaths, it is widely accepted both smartphones and marijuana can impair the attention and judgment necessary to navigate roadways safely behind the wheel and on foot.
The reported number of smartphones in active use in the U.S. increased 236% from 2010 to 2016, and the number of cell phone-related emergency room visits is increasing as the devices before more prevalent in daily life.
The seven states and D.C. that legalized recreational marijuana use between 2012 and 2016 experienced a collective 16.4% increase in pedestrian fatalities for the first half of 2017, while all other states saw a combined 5.8% decrease.
As report author [Richard Retting of Sam Schwartz Consulting] notes, “This preliminary 2017 data is the first opportunity to look at marijuana-impairment as a possible contributing factor in pedestrian deaths, given the recent law changes. It’s critical to use this early data to look for potential warning signs.”
Without discounting the significance of the interesting data in this report, close followers of marijuana reforms should be able to identify some important quirkiness in how these data are assembled in the report:
The seven states (Alaska, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon, Washington) and DC that legalized recreational use of marijuana between 2012 and 2016 reported a collective 16.4 percent increase in pedestrian fatalities for the first six months of 2017 versus the first six months of 2016, whereas all other states reported a collective 5.8 percent decrease in pedestrian fatalities.
Notably missing from the states listed here is California, which also legalized recreational use of marijuana in 2016 along with Maine, Massachusetts and Nevada. Notably, California actually saw a major decrease in pedestrian fatalities for the first six months of 2017, and I believe that moving California from the "all other states" category into the legalization category would actually lead to the legalization states to have collectively a larger decrease in pedestrian fatalities than the "all other states" group.
Critically, California did not have operating recreational marijuana stores in the first part of 2017, so there is a plausible basis for saying that it should not be considered a "full legalization" state until 2018. But, critically, the same is true for Maine, Massachusetts and Nevada (Nevada got stores going in the second part of 2017, and neither Maine or Massachusetts has stores operative yet). I see little basis for including Maine, Massachusetts and Nevada in this analysis and leaving out California other than an interest in having the numbers come out a certain way.
Also critical in any assessment of this data is to appreciate the "small number" dynamics and the challenge of identifying what may have significantly changed from 2016 to 2017 in "mature" marijuana reform states. Colorado, for example, had a reported pedestrian fatality increase in this new report of only 4 persons, from 33 to 37 in the relevant period from 2016 to 2017; but the comparable data from 2013 and 2014, when legal recreational sales started in this state, indicates big pedestrian fatality decrease in Colorado from 33 down to 23.
Thursday, February 22, 2018
New report from SAM and affiliate assembles data to highlight problems in Colorado after legalization
The Marijuana Accountability Coalition (MAC), along with Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM), launched a new report today examining marijuana legalization in Colorado, joining Colorado Christian University and the Centennial Institute in an open press event. SAM honorary advisor, former Congressman Patrick Kennedy, also delivered the report to Colorado House Speaker Crisanta Duran earlier today. MAC is an affiliate of SAM Action, SAM's 501 c-4 organization, started by former Obama and Bush Administration advisors.
"We will continue to investigate, expose, challenge, and hold the marijuana industry accountable," said Justin Luke Riley, founder of MAC. "We will not remain silent anymore as we see our state overtaken by special marijuana interests." The report also comes with a two-page report card synopsis giving Colorado an "F" on many key public health and safety indicators. Future MAC initiatives include an effort to expose politicians taking marijuana industry money, and exposing the harms of 4/20 celebrations....
The new report card discussed the following impacts in the state:
- Colorado currently holds the top ranking for first-time marijuana use among youth, representing a 65% increase in the years since legalization (NSDUH, 2006-2016). Young adult use (youth aged 18-25) in Colorado is rapidly increasing (NSDUH, 2006-2016).
- Colorado toxicology reports show the percentage of adolescent suicide victims testing positive for marijuana has increased (Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment [CDPHE], 2017).
- Colorado marijuana arrests for young African-American and Hispanic youth have increased since legalization (Colorado Department of Public Safety [CDPS], 2016).
- The gallons of alcohol consumed in Colorado since marijuana legalization has increased by 8% (Colorado Department of Revenue [CDR], Colorado Liquor Excise Tax, 2017).
- In Colorado, calls to poison control centers have risen 210% between the four-year averages before and after recreational legalization (Rocky Mountain Poison and Drug Center [RMPCD], 2017 and Wang, et al., 2017)....
Other data highlighted in the report include:
- In Colorado, the annual rate of marijuana-related emergency room visits increased 35% between the years 2011 and 2015 (CDPHE, 2017).
- Narcotics officers in Colorado have been busy responding to the 50% increase in illegal grow operations across rural areas in the state (Stewart, 2017).
- In 2016 alone, Colorado law enforcement confiscated 7,116 pounds of marijuana, carried out 252 felony arrests, and made 346 highway interdictions of marijuana headed to 36 different U.S. states (RMHIDTA, 2017).
- The U.S. mail system has also been affected by the black market, seeing an 844% increase in marijuana seizures (RMHIDTA, 2017).
- The crime rate in Colorado has increased 11 times faster than the rest of the nation since legalization (Mitchell, 2017), with the Colorado Bureau of Investigation reporting an 8.3% increase in property crimes and an 18.6% increase in violent crimes (Colorado Bureau of Investigation [CBI], 2017).
- The Boulder Police Department reported a 54% increase in public consumption of marijuana citations since legalization (Boulder Police Department [BPD], 2017).
- Marijuana urine test results in Colorado are now double the national average (Quest Diagnostics, 2016).
- Insurance claims have become a growing concern among companies in legalized states (Hlavac & Easterly, 2016).
- The number of drivers in Colorado intoxicated with marijuana and involved in fatal traffic crashes increased 88% from 2013 to 2015 (Migoya, 2017). Marijuana-related traffic deaths increased 66% between the four-year averages before and after legalization (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration [NHTSA], 2017).
- Driving under the influence of drugs (DUIDs) have also risen in Colorado, with 76% of statewide DUIDs involving marijuana (Colorado State Patrol [CSP], 2017).
Because I recently saw SAM fudging how it reported some arrest data in order to advance its advocacy agenda, folks interested in these data may want also to check this list of citations.
Monday, February 19, 2018
This lengthy article from the Colorado Springs Gazette, headlined "Black market marijuana busts nearly quadruple under recreational legalization," provides some notable data on marijuana enforcement in in the first state to have a regulated legal marijuana marketplace. Here are excerpts:
Four years after legal recreational marijuana went on sale in Colorado, Gov. John Hickenlooper says the black market for marijuana in the state is shrinking and predicted that it "will be largely gone" in a few years. But new statistics show that arrests for the production of black market pot increased by 380 percent in the 2014-16 time frame, and Colorado law enforcement agencies say they are battling a boom in illegal marijuana cultivation by sometimes violent groups of criminals who rake in millions of dollars by exporting what they grow.
The Colorado Department of Public Safety, which tracks various marijuana-related statistics, found that manufacturing arrests leapt from 126 in 2014 to 476 in 2016, according to new state data obtained by The Gazette. Illegal manufacturing encompasses the unlicensed making of THC-laced products, as well as large, hidden growing operations where plant counts far exceed those allowed by state law.
Those numbers have not been put into a formal report yet. But Jack Reed, the state official who compiles them, confirmed the dramatic increase in arrests for illegal grows. Reed deferred to law enforcement officials for interpretation of the new data. Other police agencies also report a growing element of violence in the illegal marijuana trade. Denver counts seven of its 56 homicides in 2017 as marijuana-related. The U.S. Attorney's Office in Denver classified one-third of its 2017 marijuana cases as violent. Other agencies routinely report seizing guns in marijuana busts.
Overall, marijuana cases filed in state courts have plummeted by about 80 percent since voters legalized recreational marijuana in November, 2012, with sales beginning in 2014. Most officials attribute that number to the precipitous drop in simple possession arrests. There were 9,789 total cases in 2012, compared to 1,650 overall cases in 2016, and a 6 percent spike to 1,759 cases in 2017.
However, felony marijuana cases have risen steadily beginning in 2015 with 579 cases; 2016 saw 807 felony cases, and there were 901 in 2017. Possession of an ounce or less of marijuana is legal, whereas possessing 10 ounces or more is a felony. That complicates enforcement, because a single home-grown plant can produce up to 2 pounds of leaves and flowers, officials say....
By nature, black market sales are impossible to quantify accurately, but even as arrests rise, black market sales appear to be a fraction of the legal sales in Colorado. From 2014 through 2017, recreational and medical marijuana sales grew from $683 million annually to $1.5 billion last year. By comparison, the largest Colorado bust in 2017 charged 62 people and netted 4,000 pounds, which authorities estimate could be worth $16 million in states where marijuana is contraband....
Mark Bolton, the governor's marijuana advisor, doesn't dispute that arrests for illegal manufacturing have risen. But he said Hickenlooper has taken "important steps to getting rid of black market activity," from supporting legislation that reduced the legal number of plants per household to bolstering law enforcement budgets for investigation.
Law enforcement officials, particularly Republicans, accuse the state's Democratic governor of minimizing the side effects of legalization. They contend that illegal basement businesses are thriving under their noses in a state that permits growing small amounts for personal use. "It's out of control," said Ray Padilla, a drug agent who had just returned from a 20-house bust that yielded thousands of plants and several hundred pounds of harvested marijuana. "We probably spend more assets on marijuana now than we ever did."
Padilla, a balding 42-year-old sporting a beard, earrings and jeans, heads the Colorado Drug Investigators Association. He and other law enforcement leaders say the lure of marijuana millions has drawn armed growers from places as distant as Florida, California and Mexico, as well as home-grown black marketeers who set up elaborate lighting and irrigation systems in suburban houses. "I have encountered more weapons in marijuana locations than any other type of drug," Padilla said....
In 27 raids last year, Sheriff Bill Elder said, "We seized guns out of almost every single one." He holds the high potency of Colorado marijuana partly to blame. "Colorado is exporting the best marijuana in the country, and it's the number one exporter," Elder said. "We are cranking out some seriously good weed."...
John Walsh, the U.S. Attorney in Denver when recreational sales began, described smuggling as a cause for concern but not panic. "Has there been an influx of people from out of state? Yes. Has there been an effective law enforcement response? Also yes. It is an ongoing problem," he said. He credits the Hickenlooper administration for "taking it very seriously" and cooperating with federal efforts to curb black market dealing. "This is a new world. Colorado is on the front end," he said. "We're doing more than any other state in trying to set up a really effective regulatory system."
February 19, 2018 in Criminal justice developments and reforms, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)
Thursday, February 15, 2018
SAM releases report asserting Connecticut would face cost from marijuana legalization double projected tax revenues
The leading national group opposed to modern marijuana reform, Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM), today released this big new report titled "The Projected Costs of Marijuana Legalization in Connecticut." Here is how its "Introduction/Summary" gets started:
Much has been said about the revenue that marijuana legalization might bring to Connecticut. Few, however, discuss the costs of such a policy. Omitting costs is a critical oversight: no policy or business plan would be complete without discussing both sides of the balance sheet.
Although a full cost accounting of marijuana legalization would be impossible at present, enough data exists to make rough-and-ready estimates of certain likely direct and short-term costs, such as:
1. Administrative and enforcement costs for regulators
2. Increased drugged-driving fatalities
3. Increased drugged-driving injuries
4. Increased property damage to vehicles related to drugged driving
5. Short-term health costs
a. More emergency room visits for marijuana poisonings
b. Injuries from marijuana-concentrate extraction lab explosions/fires
6. Increased rates of homelessness
7. Workplace costs
a. Increased absenteeism
b. More workplace accidents among full-time employees
Initial approximations of these preliminary costs indicate that it is unlikely that revenues from legalization would ever exceed its costs. This report concludes that even a conservative cost estimate limited to only the issues above would cost Connecticut approximately $216 million in 2020, which would be the third year of legalization if the policy was implemented in 2018. (According to data from the Connecticut General Assembly’s Office of Fiscal Analysis, the legalization program will only be fully operational in its third year of operation.)
Such costs exceed, by more than 90 percent, the maximum projected official revenue estimate of $113.6 million for the third year of the proposed legalization program. (These costs are almost 300 percent of the minimum revenue estimate of $54.4 million, but to be conservative, this report uses the maximum estimate.)
February 15, 2018 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (1)
Tuesday, February 13, 2018
The question in the title of this post is the headline of this notable new commentary authored by Beau Kilmer and Rosanna Smart. Like many thoughtful commentaries in this arena, the authored highlight that a seemingly simple question does not have a simple answer. Here are excerpts:
How will legalization 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 for the health consequences of legalization, and for tax revenues. Unfortunately, we don’t have the answers, yet.
A 2015 RAND Corporation study about cannabis legalization for the state of Vermont concluded that the evidence was mixed about whether cannabis and alcohol were substitutes or complemented each other. A 2016 University of Washington literature review about changing cannabis polices and alcohol use concluded the relationship was complex.
Much research has relied on evidence of how laws that increase access to medical cannabis affect alcohol use. The findings are mixed, possibly because the studies examine different age groups, measures of alcohol consumption and time periods. The alcohol-cannabis relationship may differ across population subgroups — teens may treat these substances differently than adults. Also, some studies consider only effects on whether people drink, but not effects on how often or how much they drink.
Different studies also examine different time periods, and the laws have been changing over time. Early state laws (such as the medical cannabis legislation California passed in 1996) tend to allow broader qualifying patient conditions, legal home cultivation and less oversight of dispensaries. Differences in policies may lead to different effects on cannabis use, and possibly alcohol use. And the laws’ impact may evolve over time as the market expands or as federal enforcement shifts.
A recent working paper out of the University of Connecticut and Georgia State University has received a fair bit of attention as the latest in this series of attempts to shed light on the issue of whether alcohol and cannabis are substitutes or complements based on evidence from medical cannabis laws. The authors examined changes in alcohol sales at grocery and convenience stores and other outlets. They found that cannabis and alcohol are strong substitutes, with medical cannabis implementation being associated with a 15 percent reduction in monthly alcohol sales.
That is a surprisingly large effect, equivalent to what we would predict if the price of alcohol increased on the order of 30 percent. The effect seems especially large considering that during the study period of 2006 to 2015, the newer state medical cannabis programs that drive the main result were more restrictive and had low participation rates, typically involving less than 1 percent of the population. Of course, these medical laws could have effects that reach beyond the registered patient population if they made it easier and cheaper for non-patients to access cannabis, or if the laws caused the public to change its attitudes about cannabis and alcohol use more broadly. Much more needs to be learned about what’s driving the results in this working paper.
Even if a consensus developed about the effect of medical cannabis laws on alcohol use, it would be unwise to simply assume that the same relationship applies to legalizing cannabis sales and advertising for recreational purposes....
These questions about legalization and alcohol consumption will not be resolved anytime soon. In the meantime, California’s policymakers are making decisions about whether to license stores and lounges, and if so, where and how many. They would be wise to build flexibility into their regulatory systems and not lock into decisions they may regret as they gain more information.
February 13, 2018 in History of Alcohol Prohibition and Temperance Movements, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (2)
Monday, February 12, 2018
The title of this post is the title of this notable new "Research Letter" authored by John Staples and Donald Redelmeier published in JAMA Internal Medicine. Here is how the publication starts and ends:
On April 20 each year, thousands of Americans celebrate the intoxicating properties of marijuana on a popular counterculture holiday known as “4/20.” Legal marijuana sales surge in anticipation of the “High Holiday,” and college students report increased cannabis consumption on 4/20 itself. In many cities, activists and enthusiasts gather at public celebrations that feature synchronized mass consumption of cannabis at 4:20 pm.
Driving simulation studies indicate that higher blood Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol concentrations decrease reaction times and increase variability in speed and lane position, while some epidemiologic studies suggest that acute cannabis intoxication increases crash risk. Despite this evidence, driving after cannabis consumption is surprisingly common. We hypothesized that the April 20 cannabis celebration might be associated with a population-level increase in the risk of fatal traffic crash involvement....
We examined a quarter-century of national data and found a 12% increase in the relative risk of a fatal traffic crash after 4:20 pm on April 20 compared with identical time intervals on control days. Although the vast majority of Americans do not celebrate 4/20, the observed association was comparable in magnitude to the increase in traffic risks observed on Superbowl Sunday. Policy makers may wish to consider these risks when liberalizing marijuana laws, paying particular attention to regulatory and enforcement strategies to curtail drugged driving.
Thursday, February 8, 2018
Seattle officials stating they will retroactively vacate past misdemeanor marijuana-possession convictions
As highlighted by a number of posts linked below, the notion of expunging past marijuana convictions following legalization has quickly become a mainstream part of the reform movement. The latest notable development on this front comes from Seattle where, as reported here, city leaders are pledging to vacate past vacate misdemeanor marijuana-possession convictions. Here are the details:
Seattle will move to vacate misdemeanor marijuana-possession convictions prosecuted by the city before pot was legalized in Washington in 2012, Mayor Jenny Durkan and City Attorney Pete Holmes said Thursday.
Describing the action as “a necessary step” to right the wrongs of what she called a failed war on drugs, the mayor said such convictions have been an unfair barrier for people trying to obtain housing, credit, jobs and educations.
“The war on drugs ended up being a war on people who needed help, who needed opportunity and who needed treatment,” Durkan said in a news conference at Rainier Community Center in South Seattle. “We did little to stem the tide of the supply of drugs and instead incarcerating almost an entire generation of users who could have had a different way.”
Holmes will ask the Seattle Municipal Court to vacate all convictions and to dismiss all charges for misdemeanor marijuana possession prosecuted before pot was legalized statewide, he said at the news conference. He believes the move will result in the vacation of 500 to 600 convictions from 1997, when Seattle took over misdemeanor marijuana prosecutions from King County, until 2010, when the city stopped such prosecutions as a matter of policy.... In 2010, soon after he was elected, Holmes dismissed all of the city’s marijuana-possession cases and said his office would no longer prosecute such cases.
As Seattle seeks to “undo” the consequences of the country’s decades-long war on drugs, its challenges include a Trump administration, “which would like to turn back the clock,” he said. “We’re going to do everything we can in the city of Seattle to hold our gains,” Holmes said.
The city attorney said he plans t0 file a single motion by early next week for all convictions to be vacated and said his office will set up a website where people can determine whether their convictions have been cleared. Karen Donohue, the presiding judge for Seattle Municipal Court, is very supportive of the move, Durkan said.
The mayor said vacating hundreds of convictions from the earlier period will help communities disproportionately impacted by the criminal-justice system and help the city try to eliminate racial disparities in Seattle.
Marijuana-possession arrests in Washington increased sharply between 1986 and 2010, rising from 4,000 a year to 11,000 a year, said the mayor’s office, citing the Drug Policy Alliance.
There were 240,000 arrests in that period, with some communities affected more than others. In Washington, black people were three times more likely than white people to be convicted of marijuana crimes, Durkan said. “Those numbers tell us we were dealing with an unjust system,” she said, adding, “While we cannot reverse all the harm that was done, we can give back to those people a record that says they were not convicted, because that is the more just thing to do.”...
Durkan said she would like to see officials at the county and state levels, who handle felony marijuana cases, follow the city’s lead....
Seattle’s move follows an announcement last week by San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón, who said he would dismiss 3,038 misdemeanor marijuana charges and would consider reducing 4,900 felony marijuana charges.
Some prior related posts:
- Effective review of marijuana expungement prospects amidst nationwide state reforms
- "The Growing Movement for Marijuana Amnesty"
- Highlighting ways marijuana reform might help undo some drug war harms
- "How Do You Clear a Pot Conviction From Your Record?"
- Another review of California's commitment to expunge past marijuana convictions
- California legislator proposing state law to automatically expunge past marijuana convictions
- San Francisco DA talking about proactively revising past marijuana convictions to better implement Prop 64
- Another good review of growing movement to eliminate past convictions with modern marijuana reforms
Thursday, February 1, 2018
On Aug. 7, 2017, Jeff Hunt wrote an op-ed purporting to document what had changed in Colorado since marijuana legalization went into effect. What he describes is a dystopian hellscape of childhood drug addiction, disappointing taxing revenue and stoned drivers presenting a constant threat on the highways. He concluded that “[t]he negative consequences of legalizing recreational marijuana will be felt for generations.”
To many of us who live and work in Colorado, Hunt describes a world we don’t recognize. Our state is booming: the population has grown 10 percent since 2010, Denver’s skyline is perpetually dotted with construction cranes, and the city recently made the shortlist of cities competing to host Amazon’s second headquarters. Gov. John Hickenlooper, who initially opposed legalization in the state, has become a cautious supporter.
Perhaps the truest statement in Hunt’s piece appears in the last paragraph: “The true impact of marijuana on our communities is just starting to be learned.” Five years after marijuana legalization passed in Colorado and four years after the first retail stores opened, there is still robust debate around how successful legalization has been in the Centennial State....
All too often, both those in favor of marijuana legalization and those opposed to it pick and choose data to support their position. Denver’s district attorney stated that legalization has led to an increase in murders, car thefts, robberies and home invasions, while another study released just a few months later argued that no increase had taken place. One can find studies that show youth consumption of marijuana has gone up since legalization, as well as those showing a drop. With only three years of data on a regulated market available in Colorado (and far less in other states that legalized after it) it may be some time before clear trends in the data emerge....
No one argues that marijuana legalization has proceeded flawlessly in Colorado or elsewhere. There are significant complications associated with taxing and regulating conduct that the federal government continues to see as criminal in all instances. Regulators and lawmakers need to be nimble in responding to patterns in consumer behavior and to ever-changing signals from the federal government. As they do so, they must look carefully at those who invoke questionable statistics to influence policy. They should also recognize that an important part of any marijuana law reform is the collecting of good, objective data to influence policy going forward.
Tuesday, January 23, 2018
Drug Policy Alliance releases big new report: "From Prohibition to Progress: A Status Report on Marijuana Legalization"
The reform advocacy organization Drug Policy Alliance has released today this big new data-dense report headlined "From Prohibition to Progress: A Status Report on Marijuana Legalization; What We Know About Marijuana Legalization in Eight States and Washington, D.C." I am likely going to do a series of posts about this report and its details particulars, but I will begin here by just quoting the first part of its executive summary:
On November 6, 2012, Colorado and Washington became the first two states – and first two jurisdictions in the world – to legalize marijuana for adult use. Two years later Alaska, Oregon, and Washington, D.C. followed suit. In 2016 voters in four additional states – California, Massachusetts, Maine and Nevada – also approved ballot measures legalizing marijuana. In January 2018, Vermont became the first state to legalize marijuana through a state legislature. More states are expected to legalize marijuana in the near future.
Evidence shows that marijuana legalization is working so far. States are saving money and protecting the public by comprehensively regulating marijuana for adult use. This success has likely contributed to the historically high levels of public support for marijuana legalization in the U.S., which has steadily grown to an all-time high of 64 percent. The majority of Americans, across party affiliations, support legalizing marijuana, with 51 percent of Republicans now in favor.
Arrests and court filings for the possession, cultivation and distribution of marijuana have plummeted since voters legalized marijuana for adult use in eight states and Washington, D.C. These states have saved millions of dollars and prevented the criminalization of thousands of people. Marijuana legalization has a positive effect on public health and safety. Nationally, and in states that have legalized marijuana, youth marijuana use has remained stable or declined. Legal access to marijuana is associated with reductions in some of the most troubling harms associated with opioid use, including opioid overdose deaths and untreated opioid use disorders. DUI arrests for driving under the influence, of alcohol and other drugs, have declined in Colorado and Washington, the first two states to establish legally regulated adult use marijuana markets. In addition, crash rates in both states have remained similar to those in comparable states that have not legalized marijuana.
At the same time, states are filling their coffers with hundreds of millions of dollars in marijuana tax revenues. These revenues are being allocated for social good – to fund education, school construction, early literacy, bullying prevention, behavioral health, and alcohol and drug treatment. In addition, the legal marijuana industry is creating jobs; it currently employs approximately 200,000 full and part-time workers across the country.
January 23, 2018 in History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)
Thursday, January 11, 2018
"Study: Legal marijuana could generate more than $132 billion in federal tax revenue and 1 million jobs"
The title of this post is the headline of this notable new piece in the Washington Post. Here is how it gets started:
Legalizing marijuana nationwide would create at least $132 billion in tax revenue and more than a million new jobs across the United States in the next decade, according to a new study.
New Frontier Data, a data analytics firm focused on the cannabis industry, forecasts that if legalized on the federal level, the marijuana industry could create an entirely new tax revenue stream for the government, generating millions of dollars in sales tax and payroll deductions. “When there are budget deficits and the like, everybody wants to know where is there an additional revenue stream, and one of the most logical places is to go after cannabis and cannabis taxes,” said Beau Whitney, a senior economist at New Frontier Data.
The analysis shows that if marijuana were fully legal in all 50 states, it would create at least a combined $131.8 billion in in federal tax revenue between 2017 and 2025. That is based on an estimated 15 percent retail sales tax, payroll tax deductions and business tax revenue.
The federal government would reap $51.7 billion in sales tax from a legal marijuana market between 2017 and 2025, entirely new revenue for a business that remains illegal -- and unable to be taxed -- federally. The business tax rate for the study was calculated at 35 percent. The corporate tax rate was lowered to 21 percent in a sweeping tax bill President Trump signed last month.
“If cannabis businesses were legalized tomorrow and taxed as normal businesses with a standard 35 percent tax rate, cannabis businesses would infuse the U.S. economy with an additional $12.6 billion this year,” said Giadha Aguirre De Carcer, the CEO of New Frontier.
The study also calculates that there would be 782,000 additional jobs nationwide if cannabis were legalized today, a number that would increase to 1.1 million by 2025. That includes workers at all ends of the marijuana supply chain, from farmers to transporters to sellers. The study estimates that about 25 percent of the marijuana market will continue to be illicit, and will shrink if the legal marketplace is not overly taxed or expensive.
January 11, 2018 in History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Taxation information and issues | Permalink | Comments (0)
Thursday, December 21, 2017
Notable coverage of notable marijuana reform public health issues in Nov 2017 issue of Preventive Medicine
I have just seen that the November 2017 issue of Preventive Medicine has a series of articles on the "potential health impacts of legalizing recreational marijuana use," and that series is described in an editorial introduction this way:
Legalization of marijuana use has gained considerable momentum in the U.S. with 28 states plus the District of Columbia (DC) legalizing medical marijuana use and 8 states plus DC legalizing recreational marijuana use, with similar liberalization of laws occurring in Canada and other countries (NYTimes, April 13, 2017). Such actions clearly have tremendous public health implications and it is important that those implications be considered using the best available scientific evidence.
In this Special Issue we invited policy makers from Colorado (Ghosh et al., 2017, in this issue), the first U.S. state to legalize recreational marijuana use, Vermont (Chen and Searles, 2017, in this issue), a state currently considering legalization of recreational use, and the U.S.’s National Institute on Drug Abuse (Weiss and Wargo, 2017, in this issue) to provide a federal perspective on the health implications of legalizing recreational marijuana use.
In addition to policy makers we invited contributions from scientific experts in the health impacts of marijuana use to address the implications of legalizing recreational marijuana use, including potential impacts on the epidemiology of marijuana use and risk perceptions among youth and adults (Carliner et al., 2017, in this issue), emergency medicine (Wang et al., 2017, in this issue), addiction risk (Budney and Borodovsky, 2017, in this issue), adolescent risks and potential interventions (Schuster et al., 2017; Walker, 2017, in this issue), and maternal and child health (Mark and Terplan, 2017, in this issue).
Here are just some of the titles of some of the notable article in the issue:
- "Lessons learned after three years of legalized, recreational marijuana: The Colorado experience"
- "Cannabis use, attitudes, and legal status in the U.S.: A review"
- "Marijuana and acute health care contacts in ColoradoOriginal Research Article"
- "The potential impact of cannabis legalization on the development of cannabis use disorders"
- "Legalization of cannabis: Considerations for intervening with adolescent consumers"
December 21, 2017 in Medical community perspectives, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)
Tuesday, December 19, 2017
Making the case that the end of marijuana prohibition in Colorado has not really had much of an impact on much
Antony Davies and James Harrigan have this notable new commentary at US News & World Report headlined "Marijuana Doomsday Didn't Come: Those who thought Colorado's legalization would be a catastrophe were wrong then and are wrong now." Here is how it starts and ends:
It's been a little more than five years since Colorado's voters approved Constitutional Amendment 64, which legalized recreational marijuana in the state. Sales commenced four years ago this January. Although the amendment passed by a comfortable 10-point margin, the debate in Colorado has continued in the years since prohibition ended, most recently flaring up with an editorial published in the Colorado Springs Gazette. Last month, the Gazette's editorial board referred to what has happened in Colorado as "an embarrassing cautionary tale," before presenting a laundry list of the purported ill-effects of the change in the law.
That list included everything from the smell of burning marijuana, to increased homelessness, to rampant teen drug use, to a doubling of the number of drivers involved in fatal accidents who test positive for marijuana. This last charge is particularly puzzling as there is no reliable DUI test for marijuana, and drug tests can't distinguish between marijuana ingested immediately before driving and marijuana ingested a month or more before driving. Not to be dissuaded by science, the editorial board went so far as to quote Marijuana Accountability Coalition founder Justin Luke Riley, who holds that legal marijuana is "devastating our kids and devastating whole communities."
All of this is doubtlessly music to Attorney General Jeff Sessions' ears, who is presently making noise about increasing the federal government's involvement in the fight against legalization. Sessions is on record as saying that "good people don't smoke marijuana." He has also supported the death penalty for marijuana dealers, lest there be any doubt which way he breaks on matters of drug prohibition. He recently went so far as to refer to marijuana as "a life-wrecking dependency" which is only "slightly less awful" than heroin.
Between Sessions and the Colorado Springs Gazette one could be forgiven for thinking that marijuana legalization is one of the most pernicious political decisions made in the modern era. Except it isn't. And there is a pretty significant body of evidence that indicates as much....
Marijuana opponents like Sessions are quick to identify all sorts of evils that will befall society in the wake of legalization. What opponents conveniently ignore are the myriad evils that befall society precisely because of prohibition. Today, over half a million Americans are arrested each year for marijuana possession. That's more than are arrested annually for all violent crimes combined. Each one of those half-million annual arrests represents a family that is subjected to financial, psychic and sometimes physical harm from police, prosecutors and courts.
Enough is enough. Evidence from Colorado shows that marijuana legalization does not lead to increased teen usage, does not lead to increased homelessness, and does not lead to societal breakdown. If marijuana does destroy lives, it is only because zealots like Sessions make it so. Saving people from themselves at the cost of their liberty is, generally speaking, a bad idea. When it comes to marijuana it is an especially bad idea. And all the lies and distortions of the truth will not change that.
Thursday, December 14, 2017
Less encouraging new data from Monitoring the Future study concerning teenager marijuana use (but good news regarding other drugs)
In this post earlier this week, titled "Encouraging new data from National Survey on Drug Use and Health concerning teenager marijuana use," I noted my personal skepticism of contentions that teen marijuana use would go down in the wake of marijuana legalization. But, as detailed in that prior post, some new numbers from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health suggests this could be the reality in at least some legalization states for now.
But, as detailed in this new press release, headed "Marijuana Use Edges Upward," another set of new data does not tell a story quite so rosy with respect to use of marijuana by youngsters. Here are the basics:
Marijuana use among adolescents edged upward in 2017, the first significant increase in seven years. Overall, past-year use of marijuana significantly increased by 1.3% to 24% in 2017 for 8th, 10th, and 12th graders combined. Specifically, in 8th, 10th, and 12th grades the respective increases were 0.8% (to 10.1%), 1.6% (to 25.5%) and 1.5% (to 37.1%). The increase is statistically significant when all three grades are combined.
“This increase has been expected by many” said Richard Miech, the Principal Investigator of the study. “Historically marijuana use has gone up as adolescents see less risk of harm in using it. We’ve found that the risk adolescents see in marijuana use has been steadily going down for years to the point that it is now at the lowest level we’ve seen in four decades.”
The results come from the annual Monitoring the Future study, now in its 43rd year. About 45,000 students in some 380 public and private secondary schools have been surveyed each year in this U.S. national study, designed and conducted by research scientists at the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research and funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Students in grades 8, 10 and 12 are surveyed.
This increase in marijuana drove trends in any illicit drug use in the past year. In both 12th and 10th grade this measure increased (although the increase was not statistically significant), while use of any illicit drug use other than marijuana declined (although the decrease was not statistically significant). In 8th grade neither of these drug use measures significantly changed, although they both increased slightly.
As this blurb highlights, a decline in the use of other illicit drugs emerges from this 2017 data, and also "cigarette smoking by teens [for] all measures (lifetime, 30-day, daily, and half-pack/day) are at historic lows since first measured in all three grades in 1991." Though there is research to suggest an increase in marijuana use by teens is not a positive public health story, a reduction in the use of cigarettes and other illicit drugs certainly is. These stories may or may not be causally connected, but all these data reinforce for me how intricate (and perhaps conflicting) data may be about the impact of marijuana reforms on teen behaviors and public health.
Prior recent related post:
Monday, December 11, 2017
I think even the most avid advocate for marijuana reform recognizes that it might not be great for teenagers to be regular users of marijuana (brain science research makes this point as well). Thus, advocates for legalization have been heard to assert that teen use of marijuana could go down if legalization was coupled with sustained public advocacy against teen marijuana use. I have been personally skeptical of the contention that teen use would go down in the wake of marijuana legalization, but some new numbers from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health suggests this could be the reality in at least some legalization states for now. The new data from NSDUH is available here, and here are some different press accounts of the encouraging data:
From Marijuana Moment here, "Teen Marijuana Use Down In Most Legalized States, Federal Data Says"
From The Cannabist here, "Teen marijuana use in Colorado down post-legalization: The latest results from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health align with data collected by Colorado"
From The Denver Channel here, "Marijuana use among Colorado teens declines again, government report shows"
From Washington Post here, "Following marijuana legalization, teen drug use is down in Colorado"
Monday, November 27, 2017
As mentioned in a prior post, my Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform seminar is hitting its homestretch and the last group of students are delivering presentations on a marijuana-related topic of their choosing. One student for the next class has this provocative title for her presentation: ""Driving Under the Influence of Marijuana: Legalize or Criminalize?"
Here are links to background information regarding the topic from the student:
Wednesday, November 22, 2017
Canadian agency wisely getting a running start on measuring economic and social impacts of recreational marijuana reforms
As detailed in this official release, titled "A cannabis economic account – The framework," the national agency Statistics Canada has just announce how it is "preparing Canada's statistical system to capture the associated economic and social implications of the prospective legalization of cannabis." Here are the details via the release:
On April 13, 2017, the Government of Canada tabled legislation in the House of Commons to legalize, regulate and restrict access to cannabis for non-medical purposes. If legislation is approved by Parliament, the drug's new status might come into effect by mid-2018.
Currently, the non-medical use of cannabis is not captured by the statistical system and there is a lack of available information from which to compile reliable estimates. Once cannabis is legalized, the majority of the production, sale and use of cannabis should move from 'underground' to 'above ground,' making it easier to capture and report. Statistics Canada is therefore preparing the statistical system to be able to capture the economic and social activities related to the non-medical use of cannabis.
Given the non-medical use of cannibis in Canada, it is incumbent upon the agency to try to measure the production, sale and use pre-legalization—despite the obvious difficulties of doing so—as well as post-legalization to provide Canadians, governments and businesses with as clear a picture as possible of the economic and social consequences of the legalization.
Today Statistics Canada is releasing a paper describing the framework it plans to use to estimate cannabis production and consumption, both pre- and post-legalization. The paper [available here] "A Cannabis Economic Account — The framework" organizes the different aspects of the cannabis economy in a 'supply and use' accounting structure that borrows concepts and terminology from the international System of National Accounts and Canadian System of Macroeconomic accounts.
In brief, the framework derives estimates of cannabis consumption expenditures of Canadians from use prevalence data in Statistics Canada health surveys. A series of models have been developed which are applied to the consumption data to derive estimates of the production and the gross domestic product of non-medical cannabis in Canada as well as imports, exports and 'retail' margins. These models are based on a number of assumptions and include the use of justice statistics to derive estimates of the illegal import and export of cannabis—that is, cannabis smuggling and the hypothesis that the process to produce non-medical cannabis is similar to that of medical cannabis.