Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform

Editor: Douglas A. Berman
Moritz College of Law

Friday, October 14, 2016

New Drug Policy Alliance reports on "what we know" about marijuana legalization "so far"

The folks at the Drug Policy Alliance have released this notable new report titled "So Far, So Good: What We Know About Marijuana Legalization in Colorado, Washington, Alaska, Oregon and Washington, D.C." The website provides this summary of the short report's contents:

In 2012, Colorado and Washington became the first two U.S. states – and the first two jurisdictions in the world – to approve ending marijuana prohibition and legally regulating marijuana production, distribution and sales. In the 2014 election, Alaska and Oregon followed suit, while Washington D.C. passed a more limited measure that legalized possession and home cultivation of marijuana (but did not address its taxation and sale due to D.C. law).

The report’s key findings include:

  • Marijuana arrests have plummeted in the states that legalized marijuana, although disproportionate enforcement of marijuana crimes against black people continues.

  • Statewide surveys of youth in Colorado, Washington, Alaska, and Oregon found that there were no significant increases in youth marijuana use post-legalization.

  • Tax revenues in Colorado, Washington, and Oregon have all exceeded initial revenue estimates, totaling $552 million.

  • Legalization has not led to more dangerous road conditions, as traffic fatality rates have remained stable in Colorado, Washington, Alaska, and Oregon.

October 14, 2016 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, October 13, 2016

"Recreational Cannabis Reduces Rapes and Thefts: Evidence from a Quasi-Experiment"

The title of this post is the title of this fascinating new study available via SSRN from a group of economists.  Here is the abstract:

An argument against the legalization of the cannabis market is that such a policy would increase crime.  Exploiting the recent staggered legalization enacted by the states of Washington (end of 2012) and Oregon (end of 2014) we show, combining difference-in-differences and spatial regression discontinuity designs, that recreational cannabis caused a significant reduction of rapes and thefts on the Washington side of the border in 2013-2014 relative to the Oregon side and relative to the pre-legalization years 2010-2012.

October 13, 2016 in Criminal justice developments and reforms, Initiative reforms in states, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, September 30, 2016

Noting the good being done with huge tax revenues from marijuana reform in Colorado

This new Huffington Post article, headlined "Colorado To Use Pot Tax To Fund Anti-Bullying Programs In Schools," reports on state tax developments that I strongly believe marijuana reform advocates ought to be highlighting and promoting a lot more. Here are excerpts:

Colorado is trying to weed out the bullies from its schools. The Colorado Department of Education is using surplus marijuana tax revenue to create anti-bullying programs in the state’s schools.

The CDE will award 50 schools grants of up to $40,000 per school each year to administer these programs, ABC affiliate KMGH-TV reports.  The programs implemented will employ evidence-based anti-bullying practices and will also teach families and communities strategies to deal with bullying, the grant’s description says....

In November, Colorado voters chose to have the state keep the money made from marijuana sales taxes. The amount totaled $66 million, according to CNN Money.  The state is using the cash to support schools, law enforcement, drug education and other programs, reported USA Today.

Aurora, Colorado, for instance, used the $1.5 million it generated to help its homeless population.

September 30, 2016 in Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Taxation information and issues | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, September 19, 2016

Cato Institute releases new policy analysis on marijuana legalization providing a "Dose of Reality"

I am very pleased to see the release of this lengthy new policy analysis published by the Cato institute under the title "Dose of Reality: The Effect of State Marijuana Legalizations." Here is its executive summary:

In November 2012 voters in the states of Colorado and Washington approved ballot initiatives that legalized marijuana for recreational use.  Two years later, Alaska and Oregon followed suit.  As many as 11 other states may consider similar measures in November 2016, through either ballot initiative or legislative action.

Supporters and opponents of such initiatives make numerous claims about state-level marijuana legalization. Advocates think legalization reduces crime, raises tax revenue, lowers criminal justice expenditures, improves public health, bolsters traffic safety, and stimulates the economy.  Critics argue that legalization spurs marijuana and other drug or alcohol use, increases crime, diminishes traffic safety, harms public health, and lowers teen educational achievement.  Systematic evaluation of these claims, however, has been largely absent.

This paper assesses recent marijuana legalizations and related policies in Colorado, Washington, Oregon, and Alaska.

Our conclusion is that state marijuana legalizations have had minimal effect on marijuana use and related outcomes.  We cannot rule out small effects of legalization, and insufficient time has elapsed since the four initial legalizations to allow strong inference.  On the basis of available data, however, we find little support for the stronger claims made by either opponents or advocates of legalization. The absence of significant adverse consequences is especially striking given the sometimes dire predictions made by legalization opponents.

September 19, 2016 in History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, September 16, 2016

If money really can "buy" elections, marijuana legalization in California should pass with nearly 98% of the vote

One of many reasons I find the politics of marijuana reform so interesting is because it can often provide interesting and telling (and often unexpected) lessons that can and should inform what we know and what we think we know about modern politics.   One theme in modern politics and criticisms thereof concerns the role of money in elections and the notion that an issue or candidate that raises enough money will be sure to prevail in an election no matter what the voters really think of the substantive merits of that issue or candidate.   Based on this recent reporting about some recent funding numbers surrounding the California marijuana legalization initiative, if this is true we should expect the pro-reform vote to win by a record-setting landslide:

California law enforcement organizations are giving hundreds of thousands of dollars to fight efforts to repeal the death penalty and legalize marijuana, according to a MapLight analysis.  While five of the 17 measures on the state’s November ballot concern crime and punishment, contributions from police groups are focused on three initiative battles [two on capital punishment and one on marijuana reform], the analysis found....

Police groups have contributed about 45 percent of the funding -- or $114,450 -- to the campaign against Proposition 64, a measure to legalize marijuana. The “no” campaign has raised a little more than $254,000, while supporters of the initiative have contributed about $11.5 million. Under state law, possession of less than an ounce of marijuana is an infraction, punishable by a fine.

I have emphasized the line reporting that supporters of the marijuana reform initiative have in hand roughly 50 times more campaign resources to make their case to the voters. I do not find these campaign resource numbers at all surprising, but I also will not be surprised if it does not come anywhere close to translating into a landslide. (And if you want a firm prediction from me, as of this writing I am thinking that the marijuana reform initiative in California will pass by roughly a 55/45 margin.)

September 16, 2016 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Initiative reforms in states, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

New research indicates that daily marijuana users are less fat

JmhpeA notable new Live Science article reporting on notable new research has me seriously wondering if marijuana reform could help Americans better tackle our long-running obesity epidemic.  The article is headlined "Daily Marijuana Use Linked to Lower BMI," and here are the highlights:

People who smoke marijuana daily may be slimmer than those who don't use the drug, a new study suggests. Researchers found that people in the study who used marijuana daily had about a 3 percent lower BMI (body mass index), on average, than those who did not use marijuana at all.

"There is a popular belief that people who consume marijuana have the munchies, and so [they] are going to eat a lot and gain weight, and we found that it is not necessarily the case," said lead study author Isabelle C. Beulaygue, a research support specialist in interventional radiology at the University of Miami.

In the study, the researchers looked at more than 13,000 adults ages 18 to 26. The researchers collected body measurements to calculate the participants' BMIs, and tested the participants for marijuana use. Six years later, when the participants were between ages 24 and 32, the researchers looked again at their marijuana use and BMIs.

The researchers found that the BMIs of women who smoked marijuana daily during the study were 3.1 percent lower than the BMIs of women who did not smoke marijuana daily during the study period. And the BMIs of men who smoked marijuana daily were 2.7 percent lower than the BMIs of those who did not smoke marijuana, according to the study [which is available at this link], published in September in The Journal of Mental Health Policy and Economics....

One of the strengths of the new study was that the researchers controlled for various factors of a person's lifestyle that can normally affect people's weight, such as their diet, exercise and alcohol consumption, according to the study. Even after the researchers took these factors into consideration, the link between marijuana use and lower BMI held, the researchers said.

Beulaygue said that the researchers are not advocating for marijuana as a new weight loss tool. Previous research has linked marijuana use to potential health effects on the brain and the heart. Moreover, the new study does not prove that smoking marijuana causes people to lose weight or helps them to avoid gaining weight. Rather, it merely shows that there is a link between marijuana use and lower BMI, Beulaygue told Live Science.

The researchers said they don't know for sure what mechanism may explain this link. However, previous research has suggested that people who use marijuana regularly may break down blood sugar more quickly, which, in turn, may help to prevent weight gain, the researchers said.

September 13, 2016 in Food and Drink, Medical community perspectives, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Noting some (unexpected?) pro-marijuana opponents of some 2016 marijuana full legalization initiatives

6a00d8341bfae553ef01b7c888d83f970bFox News has this effective new article on some of the notable folks who are against marijuana prohibition but also seems to be against full marijuana legalization proposals on state ballots this year. The piece is headlined "Pot Twist: Some marijuana activists urge 'no' vote on legalization," and here are excerpts:

As voters consider marijuana-legalization efforts in several states this November, they can expect opposition from the usual pot opponents like law-enforcement groups and anti-drug activists – but some of the most ardent foes come, unexpectedly, from within the marijuana community itself.

Opponents include some in the medical-marijuana industry, concerned about what a wide-open recreational market would mean for their businesses.  Advocates for recreational marijuana also fear the latest legalization measures come with so many restrictions that pot smokers might be better off, for now, within the existing medical-marijuana system.

All five states considering legalization this November – Arizona, California, Maine, Massachusetts and Nevada – already allow the medical use of pot.  Perhaps the biggest battlefield is California, where voters will consider Prop 64, funded by Napster founder Sean Parker.

“I’m on the record totally opposing this law [California Proposition 64] that does not legalize marijuana,” said Steve Kubby, an original proponent of the 1996 ballot measure that legalized medical marijuana.  Prop 64 would technically legalize pot, but also impose a 15-percent tax on marijuana sales and empower a new bureau to enforce the regulations and issue licenses....  Kubby, who backed an alternate legalization measure that never made it to this year’s ballot, complained the Prop 64 proposal creates tougher punishments for people who have more than an ounce.

California’s marijuana industry is centered in Humboldt County, the redwood-forested coastal region 200 miles north of San Francisco.  Yet a July 12 report in the Humboldt Independent found deep divisions within the California Growers Association, a cannabis growers’ trade group, over the “Adult Use of Marijuana Act.”  An opinion poll found its members evenly split over Prop 64.  Some growers told the newspaper they feared the initiative would allow big marijuana companies to dominate the entire supply chain.  The group reportedly had threatened to oppose the proposition until drafters included temporary limits on cultivation size.

Dale Gieringer says his group, California NORML, backs the initiative “but we definitely have reservations.”  Medical patients are right to be concerned, he said, because it raises taxes on medical dispensary purchases and gives local governments the right to ban them.  On the plus side, it reduces felonies.  Diane Goldstein, executive board member for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), touted the proposal.  “This initiative is the best chance California has to end a failed war on marijuana resulting in the criminalization of almost half a million people in the last decade,” she said.

Such wide differences of opinion from within pro-marijuana circles are playing out in other states, also.  The Massachusetts measure gives existing medical dispensaries preferential licensing treatment, so a number of existing companies have actively supported the measure.  But Dan Delaney, a Boston lobbyist who has helped medical-marijuana clinics seek licenses and is chairman of Safe Cannabis Massachusetts, opposes the measure.  He is particularly opposed to language that limits the ability of local governments to regulate it and said many of the state’s hardcore pro-marijuana activists have joined with the anti-marijuana activists to oppose the measure.  They view it as being “crafted by industry folks.”

There’s another potential foe that marijuana-legalization supporters might not have expected: the alcohol industry.  US News reported in May that an alcohol trade group is funding opposition to the recreational marijuana initiative in Arizona, but that alcohol companies are backing a similar legalization measure in Nevada.  A likely reason: The Nevada proposal gives alcohol distributors first crack at the distribution licenses.

The latest polls show legalization ahead in California and split in Massachusetts and Nevada. It’s behind in Arizona, but was ahead in Maine in May.

August 27, 2016 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Initiative reforms in states, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, August 22, 2016

Oregon reports collecting over $25 million in marijuana taxes in first half of 2016

As reported in this local article, "Oregon medical marijuana dispensaries have sold an estimated $102 million in recreational cannabis since January, when the state imposed a 25 percent sales tax on pot" which means it "has collected about $25.5 million in marijuana taxes in the first six months of the year and is on track to meet state economists' projections." Here is more about marijuana tax realities in the Beaver State:

The latest tax figures, released Monday by the Oregon Department of Revenue, include the start of marijuana-infused edibles sales.  The products include a wide variety of snacks, sweets and drinks and were available to anyone 21 and older starting in June....

State economists estimate that the state will collect about $44.4 million in marijuana taxes in 2016, the first year of the tax.

The state expects it will cost $28.7 million to regulate marijuana; of that, taxes will cover $12 million with the rest covered by fees and licensing of marijuana businesses.

What's left will be distributed according to a formula spelled out by law: 40 percent to the state's Common School Fund, 20 percent to mental health, alcoholism and drug services, 15 percent to Oregon State Police, 10 percent for city law enforcement, 10 percent for county law enforcement and 5 percent to the Oregon Health Authority for alcohol and drug abuse prevention, early intervention and treatment services.

Oregon's medical marijuana stores have been allowed to sell a limited amount of cannabis flowers, as well as starter marijuana plants and seeds, to anyone 21 and older since last October. The state's temporary 25 percent tax kicked in on Jan. 1.

That tax eventually will be replaced with one ranging from 17 percent to 20 percent once the Oregon Liquor Control Commission takes over regulation of recreational marijuana sales later this year. The Legislature set the base tax rate at 17 percent, but cities and counties can adopt ordinances that add up to 3 percent more.

August 22, 2016 in Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Taxation information and issues | Permalink | Comments (1)

Friday, August 19, 2016

"It’s Not Legal Yet: Nearly 500,000 Californians Arrested for Marijuana in Last Decade"

The title of this post is the title of this new short report from the Drug Policy Alliance, which gets started this way:

Short of legalization, California has some of the most permissive marijuana possession laws in the United States, yet law enforcement continues to arrest, prosecute, and incarcerate thousands of people annually for marijuana offenses. Between 2006 and 2015, there were nearly half a million marijuana arrests in California. During this period, there were on average 14,000 marijuana felony arrests in the state each year. California voters will have the chance to greatly reduce marijuana arrests this November when they vote on Proposition 64, the Adult Use of Marijuana Act.

August 19, 2016 in Criminal justice developments and reforms, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (0)

Timely new report on benefits of marijuana reform from West Virginia Center on Budget & Policy

This local article, headlined "Could legalizing marijuana be West Virginia's pot of gold?," reports on this interesting new policy brief released by the West Virginia Center on Budget & Policy suggests. The article summarizes the themes of the report, which is titled "Modernizing West Virginia's Marijuana Laws: Potential Benefits of Decriminalization, Medical Marijuana and Legalization." This summary comes directly from the first two pages of the full 27-page report:

Over the last two decades, states across the country have modernized their marijuana laws to reflect the growing evidence that doing so will help reduce criminal justice costs, help treat some medical conditions, and boost tax revenues and their state’s economy. As of 2016, four states and the District of Columbia have legalized the recreational use of marijuana for adults, 25 states (and DC) allow for marijuana to be used for medical purposes, and 21 states have decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana. With several states considering ballot measures this November and public support for legalization rapidly growing (53% of Americans support legalization) among all age groups, the number of states taking action to undo restrictions on marijuana is likely to grow.

While most states have taken at least one step toward modernizing their marijuana laws, West Virginia has not. However, bi-partisan legislation has been introduced in West Virginia over the last several years to legalize medical marijuana and tax marijuana for retail sales to adults. A 2013 poll found that a majority of West Virginians supports decriminalizing marijuana and legalizing it for medical use, while 46 percent supported regulating it like alcohol.

As West Virginia continues to be plagued by large budget deficits (a projected $300 million for FY 2018), an undiversified economy with a fading coal industry, and poor health outcomes, modernizing the state’s marijuana laws could be a step in addressing these problems and could help save the state money in the long run.

This report provides an overview of the states that have modernized their marijuana laws in recent years– including decriminalization, medical marijuana, and recreational use – and the implications for West Virginia if it decided to pursue a similar path. It provides an overview of federal and state marijuana laws (Section 1), an estimation of the potential tax revenue from legalizing recreational marijuana in West Virginia (Section 2), an evaluation of some potential benefits from modernizing West Virginia’s marijuana laws (Section 3), and recommendations on reforming West Virginia’s marijuana laws (Section 4).


  • If marijuana was legalized and taxed in West Virginia at a rate of 25 percent of its wholesale price the state could collect an estimated $45 million annually upon full implementation. If 10 percent of marijuana users who live within a 200-mile radius of West Virginia came to the state to purchase marijuana, the state could collect an estimated $194 million.

  • In 2010, it is estimated that West Virginia spent more than $17 million enforcing the state’s marijuana laws. Legalizing or decriminalizing marijuana in West Virginia could reduce the number of marijuana-related arrests, especially among African Americans, which in turn, could reduce criminal-justice-related costs.

  • The marijuana industry has the potential to add jobs both directly and indirectly. As of September 2015, Colorado had 25,311 people licensed to work in its marijuana industry and over 1,000 retail marijuana businesses. If marijuana were legal in West Virginia it could also have the effect of increasing tourism to the state, particularly in regions with outdoor recreational activities.

  • Marijuana may potentially have a positive impact on West Virginia’s opioid-based painkiller and heroin epidemic by offering another, less-addictive alternative to individuals who are suffering from debilitating medical conditions.

August 19, 2016 in Business laws and regulatory issues, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Taxation information and issues | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Coloardo marijuana sales (and tax revenues) continued to grow to record highs in first half of 2016

This article from the Denver Post report on the latest notable sales numbers from marijuana stores in Colorado.  The full headline of the article highlights the main data: "Colorado marijuana shops sell nearly $600 million of weed in first half of 2016; As Colorado's monthly marijuana sales eclipse the $110 million mark for only the second time, analysts predict a $1.35 billion finish for 2016."  Here is more:

Colorado marijuana shops sold nearly $600 million of recreational and medical cannabis and related products in the first half of 2016, new Department of Revenue data show. And a prominent cannabis industry analyst says the sales are on pace to reach $1.35 billion by year’s end.

The state’s marijuana tax data for June 2016 shows near-record highs for Colorado’s recreational and medical cannabis markets. June’s $73.6 million in recreational marijuana sales marks the second-busiest month for the state’s cannabis stores, according to Cannabist calculations. A few months earlier in April 2016, home to the 4/20 holiday, retail sales totaled more than $76.5 million. The $38.1 million worth of medical marijuana sold in June ranks in the top six most lucrative months of medical pot sales since the recreational era began in January 2014.

While Colorado cannabis sales totaled $996 million in 2015, this year’s totals are on pace to reach $1.35 billion, according to BDS Analytics, which collects data from dispensaries’ point-of-sale systems. “The rate of growth in this industry never ceases to astound us,” said BDS Analytics founder and CEO Roy Bingham. “The combined recreational and medical markets are more than two years old, yet they both continue to expand rapidly — especially the recreational marketplace. And within the overall market, sales in every segment, from concentrates to flower to edibles, continue to swell.”...

There are three different taxes on Colorado’s recreational cannabis — the standard 2.9 percent state sales tax, a special 10 percent sales tax and a 15 percent excise tax on wholesale transfers, which is earmarked for school construction projects. The $5.4 million collected in June excise tax brings the yearly total to $26.6 million. Through the first six months of 2016, Colorado has amassed more than $88 million in taxes and fees for medical and recreational cannabis.

August 16, 2016 in Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Taxation information and issues | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Noting that marijuana users are starting to look more like tobacco users than alcohol users

In a lot of my teaching about marijuana reform and policy advocacy, I try to get my students (and others) to explore and better understand why advocates for marijuana reform often want to talk so much about similarities between alcohol and marijuana, whereas advocates against marijuana reform often want to talk so much about similarities between tobacco and marijuana.  Against that brackdrop, this new Washington Post piece reporting on new research about marijuana use should boost the cause of opponents of marijuana reform.  Here are the details (with links from the original):

A massive study published this month in the Journal of Drug Issues found that the proportion of marijuana users who smoke daily has rapidly grown, and that many of those frequent users are poor and lack a high-school diploma. 

Examining a decade of federal surveys of drug use conducted between 2002 and 2013, study authors Steven Davenport and Jonathan Caulkins paint one of the clearest pictures yet of the demographics of current marijuana use in the U.S.  They found that the profile of marijuana users is much closer to cigarette smokers than alcohol drinkers, and that a handful of users consume much of the marijuana used in the U.S.   "In the early 1990s only one in nine past-month [marijuana] users reported using daily or near-daily," Davenport and Caulkins write. "Now it is fully one in three. Daily or near-daily users now account for over two-thirds of self-reported days of use (68%)."

These usage patterns are similar to what's seen among tobacco users. "What’s going on here is that over the last 20 years marijuana went from being used like alcohol to being used more like tobacco, in the sense of lots of people using it every day," Caulkins said in an email.  

Adults with less than a high school education accounted for 19 percent of all marijuana use in 2012 and 2013 (compared to 13 percent of the total adult population), according to the survey. This is similar to their 20 percent share of all cigarette use, but considerably higher than their 8 percent share of all alcohol use.   Similarly, Americans of all ages with a household income of less than $20,000 accounted for 29 percent of all marijuana use and 27 percent of all cigarette use, compared to only 13 percent of all alcohol use and 19 percent of the total adult population.

The concentration of use among poorer households means that many marijuana users are spending a high proportion of their income on their marijuana habit. Users who spend fully one quarter of their income on weed account for 15 percent of all marijuana use.  One interesting finding is that over the past 10 years as many states have liberalized their marijuana policies, marijuana arrests are down while marijuana purchases are up.  This means that the risk of getting arrested for marijuana use has fallen sharply since 2002. That year, there was one marijuana arrest for every 550 marijuana purchases, according to Davenport and Caulkins. By 2013, there was one marijuana arrest for every 1,090 purchases.

"The criminal risk per marijuana transaction has fallen by half," they conclude.  Much of that risk is still born by non-white marijuana users.

Davenport and Caulkins stress that since the study was conducted over a period preceding the opening of recreational marijuana markets in Colorado and Washington, it doesn't offer any evidence on the merits or lack thereof of legalization.  "Our results can in no way be interpreted as evidence toward the successes or failures of marijuana legalization or even medical marijuana laws," they write.  

However, they say their research presents a number of things to consider as states like California, Arizona and Maine vote on marijuana legalization this fall.   "Most people who have used marijuana in the past year are in full control of their use, and are generally happy with that use," Caulkins said in an email. But, "consumption is highly concentrated among the smaller number of daily & near-daily users, and they tend to be less educated, less affluent, and less in control of their use." 

The median marijuana user, in other words, may be someone who indulges periodically but generally doesn't consume a lot of it.  However, most of the marijuana consumed in the U.S. isn't consumed by the median marijuana user, but rather by the very heavy users who smoke daily or more.  "There is a sharp contrast between what policy is best for the typical user versus what is best for the people who consume most of the marijuana," Caulkins said.  


August 14, 2016 in History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, August 8, 2016

Gallup reports that self-reports of marijuana use is up in United States ... though I wonder if numbers partially reflect more honest self-reporting

As reported in this new Gallup posting, "[t]hirteen percent of U.S. adults tell Gallup they currently smoke marijuana, nearly double the percentage who reported smoking marijuana only three years ago."  Here is more on what Gallup has found and has to say about its most recent findings:

Although use of the drug is still prohibited by federal law, the number of states that have legalized recreational marijuana use has grown from two in 2013, Colorado and Washington, to four today -- with the addition of Alaska and Oregon -- plus the District of Columbia.  Five states will vote on whether to legalize marijuana this November. Half of U.S. states (including the four above) have some variation of a medicinal marijuana law on the books, and four more will be voting this fall on whether to legalize marijuana for medicinal use.  Both major-party presidential candidates, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, have voiced support for medicinal marijuana but say they defer to the states in terms of policymaking on both recreational and medicinal marijuana use.

States' willingness to legalize marijuana could be a reason for the uptick in the percentage of Americans who say they smoke marijuana, regardless of whether it is legal in their particular state.  Gallup finds residents in the West -- home of all four states that have legalized recreational marijuana use -- are significantly more likely to say they smoke marijuana than those in other parts of the country....

To compare marijuana use among various subgroups, Gallup aggregated data from 2013, 2015 and 2016.  The results show that age and religiosity are key determinants of marijuana use. Almost one in five adults (19%) under the age of 30 report currently using it -- at least double the rate seen among each older age group. Only 2% of weekly churchgoers and 7% of less frequent attenders say they use marijuana, but this rises to 14% of those who seldom or never attend a religious service.

The pattern by age in ever having used marijuana does not show the same skew toward the young; instead, it peaks among the middle-aged. About half of adults between the ages of 30 and 49 (50%) and between 50 and 64 (48%) report having tried it.  Despite being less likely to currently smoke marijuana, these older Americans could be more likely than their younger peers to report having tried it because they've had more years to do so.  But this difference in their rates of experimentation could also reflect generational cultures and attitudes toward marijuana that have shifted over time....

Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted July 13-17, 2016, with a random sample of 1,023 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.

Though not discussed by Gallup, I cannot help but speculate that these latest results may reflect a greater willingness by marijuana consumers to admit to marijuana consumption (especially in states that have recreational or medical reforms in place) as well as a greater number of persons consuming marijuana. Just speaking for myself, I think I would be generally be much more willing to admit to a telephone interviewer my involvement with activities that are legal under state laws than to those that are illegal under state law. For this reason (and others), I always wonder whether changes in self-reported marijuana use primarily reflects changes in actual use rates or instead is impacted significantly by changes in self-reporting honesty.

August 8, 2016 in Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Polling data and results, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

The latest government data on marijuana use and attitudes

This new USA Today article, headlined "Study examines evolving rates, perceptions of marijuana use," reports on some new data on marijuana consumption and related topics in the United States. Here are excerpts from the press report on the marijuana report:

A new study from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration provides an in-depth examination of marijuana use in the United States, as well as data regarding the public’s perception of the risks associated with the drug.  Using data collected by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health from 2012 to 2014, SAMHSA analyzed various regions around the country and within states to determine the rates of marijuana use and “perceptions of risks of harm” associated with the drug’s use in different parts of the U.S.

“This report provides a very detailed understanding of marijuana use and perception patterns in communities across the nation,” said Fran Harding, Director of SAMHSA’s Center for Substance Abuse Prevention. “This information can help public health officials and others better gauge the marijuana-related prevention and treatment needs in their communities and fine-tune their programs and services to best address them....

According to the study, 20.3 million people age 12 or older used marijuana in the past month, or approximately 1 in 13 people over the age of 12.

Although the federal government still classifies marijuana as a Schedule I drug, many states have begun to make changes to their cannabis laws. Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, Washington and the District of Columbia are currently the only states with legalized recreational marijuana, but 23 states and the District of Columbia have legalized forms of medical marijuana while an additional 14 have taken measures to decriminalize the drug.

The report comes several months ahead of the November elections, where eight states will have the option to legalize either recreational or medical cannabis. Five states — Arizona, California, Maine, Massachusetts and Nevada — are pursuing recreational marijuana, while three more — Arkansas, Florida and Missouri — could legalize medicinal cannabis.

Breaking their study into several regions — West, Northeast, Midwest and South — SAMHSA identified several states with multiple high use substate regions. Among those identified were Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington and the District of Columbia. Rhode Island and Vermont are the only two of those states to have either not legalized recreational marijuana or not have it on the ballot in 2016.

In spite of the increasingly relaxed marijuana laws, the SAMHSA study also found that approximately 74.9 million people aged 12 or older “perceived great risk of harm” from using marijuana once a month, or approximately 2 out of every 7 people above the age of 12. The states with the highest percentages of perception of risk were all from the South — Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas. Alabama, Louisiana and Texas were among the states with the lowest use rate. The states with the lowest perception of risk include high marijuana use areas like Oregon, Washington and the District of Columbia.

The SAMHSA 19-page "short report" that is the basis for this article is available at this link under the title "Marijuana Use and Perceived Risk of Harm from Marijuana Use Varies within and across States."  For anyone really interested in marijuana data, especially divided by regions, the particulars and graphics from this report will be really interesting.

July 26, 2016 in Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, July 22, 2016

"Republican support for legal marijuana hits a new high: For the first time Republicans narrowly support legalizing marijuana"

Marijuana1The title of this post is the headline of this summary report by YouGov of the results of its latest polling on marijuana reform opinions. Here is some of the text of the report:

YouGov's latest research shows that most Americans still support legalization of marijuana, and that support for legalization has increased slightly, from 52% in December 2015 to 55% today. Most of this change is a result of changing attitudes among Republicans. In fact, for the first time, Republicans narrowly tend to support legalization, 45% to 42%.

In December 2015, Republicans had opposed marijuana legalization by 50% to 36%. Prior to this Republicans support for legalization was even more limited. In January 2014 60% of Republicans opposed legalizing marijuana and only 28% supported legalization.

Broader attitudes towards marijuana among Republicans are largely unchanged however, indicating that Republican opinion of prohibition is changing not broader attitudes towards marijuana. Notably, while 44% of Republicans viewed marijuana as a gateway to harder drugs in December, this figure is still essentially unchanged at 43% today. In December 55% of Republicans thought government efforts to enforce marijuana laws cost more than they were worth, something 54% of Republicans still think.

The full poll results which are the product of questions asked of 1000 respondents from July 17-18, 2016, are available at this link.

July 22, 2016 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Political perspective on reforms, Polling data and results, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, July 21, 2016

New psychology research suggests why we ought to consider encouraging adults to use more marijuana and less alcohol

15As highlighted by this Washington Post piece, headlined "Researchers got people drunk or high, then made a fascinating discovery about how we respond," some notable new research provide yet another reason why society might be better off encouraging marijuana use rather than alcohol use. Here are the basics from the WaPo piece:

[R]esearch on the link between marijuana and aggression has been mixed. Marijuana seems to make most people relaxed, but it can also cause anxiety and paranoia, conditions which can occasionally manifest themselves in violent ways....

So a recent study from the Netherlands, published in the journal Psychopharmacology, attempts to put this question to bed using the gold standard of scientific research: a random controlled trial. They recruited a group of 20 heavy alcohol users (three-plus drinks a day for men, two-plus for women), 21 heavy marijuana users who smoked at least three times a week, and 20 controls who didn't use either drug heavily at all.... Then they made all three groups complete a number of tests designed to get people riled up....

The researchers measured aggression, before and after the respondents took the test, by asking them how aggressive they felt on a 100-point scale. For good measure, they had the marijuana and alcohol users go through the whole thing again one week later, this time without getting high or drunk, as a kind of separate control. They found, first of all, that "alcohol intoxication increased subjective aggression in the alcohol group." The alcohol users, in other words, acted more aggressive when they were drunk than they did when they were sober. By contrast, the smokers became less aggressive when they were high.

These findings held through both the self-assessments — alcohol users rated themselves as more aggressive when drunk — and through the responses to the tests: The drinkers tried harder to undermine their computer opponents when they were drunk. But the smokers actually acted less aggressive toward their computer opponents when they were high. "The results in the present study support the hypothesis that acute alcohol intoxication increases feelings of aggression and that acute cannabis intoxication reduces feelings of aggression," the researchers conclude.

This is in line with other research. A study in 2014, for instance, found that marijuana use among couples was linked to lower rates of domestic violence. In a fun study from the 1980s, researchers gave undergraduates varying doses of marijuana and then asked them to administer electric shocks to people in another room. The more stoned the undergrads were, the less interested they were in zapping other people.

This multi-author research can be examined at this link and under the title "Subjective aggression during alcohol and cannabis intoxication before and after aggression exposure." And here is how the abstract of the article describes the results anf findings:

Results: Subjective aggression significantly increased following aggression exposure in all groups while being sober. Alcohol intoxication increased subjective aggression whereas cannabis decreased the subjective aggression following aggression exposure. Aggressive responses during the PSAP increased following alcohol and decreased following cannabis relative to placebo. Changes in aggressive feeling or response were not correlated to the neuroendocrine response to treatments.

Conclusions: It is concluded that alcohol facilitates feelings of aggression whereas cannabis diminishes aggressive feelings in heavy alcohol and regular cannabis users, respectively.

July 21, 2016 in Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (1)

Monday, June 27, 2016

DC Department of Health issues big new report: "MARIJUANA in the DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA"

Cl14w03WYAAlJOCThe District of Columbia is a unique locale with unique laws and practices in many arenas. But, as highilighted by a big new report issued by the DC's Deprtment of Health, the District's relationship with marijuana law, policy and reform has much in common with a number of other jurisdictions.  This big new report, available here, is titled "Marijuana in the District of Columbia," and here is the report's executive summary:

In recent years, marijuana related policies have gone through many transformations throughout the United States, with the District of Columbia being no exception.  This report provides insight through current research and data that outlines the disadvantage, benefits and societal ramifications that accompany decriminalization and legalization of marijuana in the District of Columbia.  Factors that have been analyzed include short-term and long-term health consequences, public safety issues like driving while under the influence of the substance, marijuana’s co-use relationship with other drugs, and effects on fetal, infant, and adolescent development.


• 53.8% of adults in the District have ever tried marijuana and 17.8% currently use it.

• Marijuana was the second most commonly detected drug in traffic accidents that resulted in fatalities, District of Columbia in 2012.

• Medical marijuana has demonstrated promising results for various ailments, including neuropathic pain, nausea due to chemotherapy, and muscle spasms.

• Short term marijuana-related effects can include cyclic vomiting, disorientation, impaired body movement, increased heart rate, and difficulty thinking or problem-solving.

• There is some evidence that marijuana use may increase cancer risk.

• Among individuals at risk for mental illness, marijuana use may worsen symptoms.

• 8.9% of marijuana users will transition from casual use to dependence.

• Cigarette use and binge drinking are significantly higher among marijuana users than nonusers.

• Marijuana use among expecting mothers has demonstrated various adverse effects, including low birth weight and pre-term delivery.

• Marijuana use has been associated with a decline in IQ when regularly used among individuals under the age of 18.

• Throughout the U.S., marijuana possession arrests tend to occur significantly more among African Americans than any other race/ ethnicity despite rates of use are fairly similar across all categories.

June 27, 2016 in Initiative reforms in states, Race, Gender and Class Issues, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Effective coverage of impact of marijuana reform on migration of poor and homeless to Colorado

Joel Warner has penned these two interesting and important new lengthy pieces about homelessness in Colorado and its intersection with marijuana reform:

Marijuana Legalization In Colorado: How Recreational Weed Is Attracting People, But Spiking The State’s Homeless Rate

Marijuana Legalization: Pot Brings Poor People To Colorado, But What’s Being Done To Help Them?

Here are brief excerpts from both articles (which ought to be read in full):

While much has been made of the tourists, entrepreneurs and investors lured to Colorado’s blossoming marijuana industry, very little attention has been paid to another population drawn to the state’s cannabis experiment: marijuana migrants moving to the state who wind up on the streets. Interviews with people at homeless shelters in Denver and other Colorado cities like Pueblo suggest that since Colorado launched its legalized cannabis system in 2014, the percentage of newcomers to the facilities who are there in part because of the lure of marijuana has swollen to 20 to 30 percent.

All told, several hundred marijuana migrants struggling with poverty appear to be arriving in Colorado each month. Some of them, like Butts, come to use cannabis recreationally or medically without the fear of arrest. Others are hoping to get jobs in the new industry. But many arrive to find homeless services stretched to the breaking point, local housing costs increasingly prohibitive and cannabis use laws that penalize those without private residences....

Homelessness experts point out that there’s no proof that marijuana leads to homelessness, or that cannabis is the main culprit behind the growing numbers. Study after study has concluded that the major factors leading to homelessness are a lack of affordable housing, inability to find work and family crises. “There is very little safety when you are homeless,” said James Gillespie, community impact and government relations liaison for the Comitis Crisis Center, a shelter in Aurora, near Denver. “How many people want to trade their safety for access to something like marijuana or any other substance?”

But there is evidence that people who were already struggling to get by in other states are relocating to Colorado in part because of marijuana. So far, however, research on the phenomenon has been limited. A survey of Denver shelter workers by Metropolitan State University in the fall of 2014 found that eight of the 11 shelters said they were seeing client increases due in part to marijuana, said lead researcher Rebecca Trammell, but the study did not examine what, exactly those increases looked like. Plus some shelters actively avoid asking about marijuana use....

Marty Otañez, a University of Colorado Denver anthropology professor who’s been studying the state’s marijuana industry, said he’s met multiple cannabis workers who are on their way to becoming homeless. It’s left him convinced that it’s time for people in charge of the industry to address the problem. “The flow of ‘trimmigrants’ and other cannabis workers into Colorado and the added pressure on homeless shelters and social services for unemployed or poorly paid cannabis workers is a symptom of the broader problem of cannabis capitalism gone awry,” said Otañez. “Nominal efforts to fund corporate social responsibility schemes demonstrate the lack of seriousness on the part of cannabis business people to address in any genuine way the social ills associated with green gold.”

With nearly a billion dollars in revenue and more than $135 million in statewide taxes and fees generated by Colorado marijuana sales last year, some shelter managers would like to see a portion of the proceeds devoted to homeless services. “If some of those dollars can go to serving those folks, it could really help people,” said Tom Luehrs, executive director of Denver’s St. Francis Center day shelter. “We are not saying we want to become rich; we just want to help these people because Colorado is doing something good and it’s bringing people here.”

So far, none of Colorado’s marijuana tax revenues have gone to homeless programs. That will soon change. In Aurora, the city council recently voted to earmark $1.5 million of marijuana tax proceeds for homeless services annually for the next three years. According to Nancy Sheffield, project manager for Aurora’s neighborhood services department, the decision wasn’t based on concerns that marijuana was increasing local homeless numbers; it’s simply a matter of allocating resources to high-priority issues.

Whatever the reason, homeless advocates celebrated the move. “It’s a brilliant move by Aurora,” said James Gillespie, community impact and government relations liaison for the city's Comitis Crisis Center, a shelter. “It’s not every day that a municipality gets a new funding stream. To reinvest that to meet the needs of struggling families is a good moral imperative stand.”

June 22, 2016 in Race, Gender and Class Issues, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

"Colorado's Teen Marijuana Usage Dips after Legalization"

Logo-combined-Rev-05-06-15The title of this post is the headline of this new press report on a new Colorado government report about marijuana usage in the Centennial State.  Here are the details:

Marijuana consumption by Colorado high school students has dipped slightly since the state first permitted recreational cannabis use by adults, a new survey showed on Monday, contrary to concerns that legalization would increase pot use by teens.

The biannual poll by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment also showed the percentage of high school students indulging in marijuana in Colorado was smaller than the national average among teens. According to the department, 21.2 percent of Colorado high school students surveyed in 2015 had used marijuana during the preceding 30 days, down from 22 percent in 2011, the year before voters statewide approved recreational cannabis use by adults 21 and older.  The first state-licensed retail outlets for legalized pot actually opened in 2014.

Nationwide, the rate of pot use by teens is slightly higher at 21.7 percent, the study found.  “The survey shows marijuana use has not increased since legalization, with four of five high school students continuing to say they don't use marijuana, even occasionally,” the department said in a statement.

The department conducts the voluntary survey every two years in conjunction with the University of Colorado and a citizens advisory committee.  About 17,000 students responded to the poll....

A pro-legalization advocacy group said the findings show fears of widespread pot use by minors in states with legalized cannabis are unfounded.  "These statistics clearly debunk the theory that making marijuana legal for adults will result in more teen use,” said Mason Tvert, spokesman for the Marijuana Policy Project.

But Diane Carlson, of SMART Colorado, an organization that pushes for tighter regulations to keep cannabis away from children, said data from a 2015 survey by the federal Department of Health and Human Services showed that Colorado ranks first in the nation for marijuana use by youth between the ages of 12 and 17.

Carlson said it was “deeply concerning” that the Colorado survey showed that just 48 percent of the students polled viewed regular marijuana use as a risky behavior.  "Youth marijuana use can have lifelong implications. The risks, which include psychosis, suicide, drug addiction and lower IQs, have been reported based on research on much lower THC potencies than are typically sold on Colorado's commercial market,” she said.

The survey from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and related materials can be accessed at this link, and this news release from the Department is sub-titled "Youth marijuana use unchanged, alcohol, tobacco use down in Colorado." I found especially interesteing this infographic headed "Marijuana Use Among Youth in Colorado."

June 21, 2016 in Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Notable CDC survey data showing no changes in youth marijuana use despite massive state changes in marijuana law and policy

Via Tom Angell, the founder of Marijuana Majority, I just saw this interesting data report from the Center For Desease Control under the heading "Trends in the Prevalence of Marijuana, Cocaine, and Other Illegal Drug Use, National YRBS: 1991—2015." For those who do not know, the YRBS refers to the nation Youth Risk Behavior Survey which "monitors priority health risk behaviors and "is conducted every two years during the spring semester and provides data representative of 9th through 12th grade students in public and private schools throughout the United States."

The first three lines of data from this link will be of greatest interest to marijuana reform advocate, as it reports from the last 25 years the survey results on the issues of how many high-schoolers have "Ever used marijuana (one or more times during their life)" and have "Tried marijuana before age 13 years (for the first time)" and "Currently used marijuana (one or more times during the 30 days before the survey)."  Though I am simplifying the particulars, for all these survey questions, it appears that teen use of marijuana as reported via these surveys generally increased some in the 1990s and generally decreased over the last 15 years. And, of particular note, the CDC report that from 2013 to 2015, these was essentially and statistically speaking "No change." (Also, encouragingly, it appears that use of harder drugs by teens is also either not changing or even "decreasing" in recent years.)

Long story short, while adult use of marijuana is being legalize recreationally in a few states and medically in many more, it appears that so far we are seeing no obvious impact on teen use of marijuana.   I am not confident that these trends will persist over a long period of time if marijuana is legalized for recreational use by adults nationwide, but for now there is preliminary data to contradict assertions by opponents that marijuana reform that reform will be leading to significant increases in use by underage populations.

June 9, 2016 in History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (0)