Thursday, December 16, 2021
"The Effects of Marijuana Legalization in Colorado: More Neutral than Expected"
The title of this post is the title of this paper recently posted to SSRN and authored by Jesse Plaksa, a student at The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law. (This paper is yet another in the on-going series of student papers supported by the Drug Enforcement and Policy Center.) Here is this latest paper's abstract:
In 2012, Colorado was among the first states to legalize marijuana for recreational use, coming only second to Washington by four days. However, Colorado was the first state to begin selling recreationally. Thus, interested parties immediately began looking to Colorado’s experiment to help determine what exactly happens when a state begins regulating marijuana like alcohol. Any major policy change will have many wide-ranging effects.
This paper will examine a variety of those effects, including the effects on crime, use of other illicit drugs, policing, health, and economic effects. The effects on crime are not clear because there are conflicting reports showing crime has gone down, but others show a neutral effect on crime. Legalization does not seem to affect clearance rates of crimes, as proponents often argue it would. It is not yet clear whether marijuana legalization lowers opioid overdose deaths, though researchers would expect that some opioid users would use marijuana instead. Additionally, legalization appears to have little to no effect on traffic accidents and fatalities. Legalization also added a substantial amount of new jobs to Colorado’s economy and brings in substantial revenue with Colorado’s high tax rate on marijuana sales.
Marijuana is still federally illegal, being a schedule I drug along with heroin, but states have pushed forward with little to no interference from the federal government. Colorado has paved the way by showing that legalization can, at the very least, bring in much-needed revenue via taxes. By being aware of the possible effects of legalization, state lawmakers and citizens can be better informed to make decisions for their own states. Additionally, the federal government can look to Colorado as an experiment that it can then learn from to better decide whether to make any changes at the federal level. Given that Pew polls show around two thirds of Americans favor legalization, a close look at the consequences of such a policy is warranted.