Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform

Editor: Douglas A. Berman
Moritz College of Law

Monday, April 12, 2021

"Nowhere to Now, Where? Reconciling Public Cannabis Use in a Public Health Legal Framework"

The title of this post is the title of this notable new paper authored by Daniel Orenstein now available via SSRN. Here is its abstract:

States continue to legalize recreational cannabis, but most have heavily restricted where consumption of newly licit cannabis is permitted.  Every legalizing state has thus far prohibited open, outdoor public use, either limiting lawful use to private property or allowing a small number of licensed indoor venues for consumption outside of public view, an approach borrowed from alcohol control.  In contrast, some non-U.S. jurisdictions have adopted a tobacco control approach, allowing limited outdoor public use while prohibiting indoor public use.  Each approach presents individual and population health risks that reflect the complex intersection of health, social inequities, and community norms.

Cannabis consumers face uncertain but potentially significant health risks from use, and the relative availability of use locations also implicates existing inequities in policing practices and housing.  Those who do not use cannabis but are exposed to others’ use face possible harms from secondhand smoke and from intoxicated behavior, with such risks likely to be inequitably distributed due to existing employment and housing patterns.  Communities as a whole also face risks, including that changing cannabis norms may increase use prevalence or intensity and that concentration of cannabis outlets in under-resourced communities may prove as detrimental as the concentration of other disfavored businesses has been.

Each public use approach carries attendant risks, but a regulatory framework based on the tobacco control model best balances the protection of public health and the promotion of equity and social justice.  This model recognizes the parallels between cannabis and tobacco (in addition to those between cannabis and alcohol).  This approach also provides a pathway to mitigating the public health risks of cannabis legalization by leveraging an approach that has proven effective at reducing secondhand exposures and denormalizing smoking behavior in the tobacco context.

April 12, 2021 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Medical community perspectives, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Spotlighting that marijuana tax revenues hit new high in 2020 at over $3 billion

031521_cannabis_figure-1-1024x706I have been recently thinking about metrics used to assess marijuana reform, and this recent post at the Just Taxes blog from the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy flags a new benchmark in a notable metric. The piece by Carl is titled "State and Local Cannabis Tax Revenue Jumps 58%, Surpassing $3 Billion in 2020," and here are excerpts:

Cannabis taxes are a small part of state and local budgets, clocking in at less than 2 percent of tax revenue in the states with legal adult-use sales. But they’re also one of states’ fastest-growing revenue sources.

Powered by an expanding legal market and a pandemic-driven boost in cannabis use, excise and sales taxes on cannabis jumped by more than $1 billion in 2020, or 58 percent, compared to a year earlier. In total, these taxes raised more than $3 billion last year, including $1 billion in California alone. These are the findings of an ITEP analysis of newly released tax revenue data from the 10 states where legal sales of adult–use cannabis took place last year.

About a third (36 percent) of the nation’s cannabis tax revenue growth occurred in California as the state’s relatively new adult-use market continued to gain its footing after a somewhat sluggish start. The next most significant source of new revenue was Illinois, which started legal retail cannabis sales on Jan. 1, 2020.

States with more established markets such as Washington, Colorado, Oregon, and Alaska also saw significant growth in revenue, likely driven in part by an increase in cannabis use during a time of stay-at-home orders and self-quarantining. The slowest year-over-year growth, by contrast, occurred in Nevada as would-be tourists wary of COVID steered clear of Las Vegas. Nevada’s economy and state budget have been among the hardest hit in the nation during the pandemic. Even so, Nevada’s cannabis tax revenues rose 14 percent compared to a year earlier.

While the pandemic has taken a significant toll on state and local budgets overall, its impact on cannabis taxes (and alcohol taxes, for that matter) appears to have mostly been a positive one. Total excise and sales tax revenue from cannabis during the first six months of the pandemic (March through August 2020) shot up by 44 percent compared to the previous six-month period. That’s compared to 17 percent growth in the six months prior. The spike in revenue is clearly visible in the figure below. Notably, it occurred not just in the states with new markets like Illinois and Michigan where rapid growth would have been expected even under normal circumstances, but also across the five states with more established legal markets that launched between 2014 and 2017.

March 25, 2021 in History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Taxation information and issues | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, February 18, 2021

New Leafly report asserts "legal cannabis now supports 321,000 full-time American jobs"

This short new "Jobs Report 2021" from Leafly provides a rosy account of the job creation contributions of the legalization of marijuana in US states.  Here is part of the start of the 16-page report:

How many jobs are there in America’s legal marijuana industry?  The 2021 Leafly Jobs Report found 321,000 full-time equivalent (FTE) jobs supported by legal cannabis as of January 2021.

To put that in perspective: In the United States there are more legal cannabis workers than electrical engineers.  There are more legal cannabis workers than EMTs and paramedics. There are more than twice as many legal cannabis workers as dentists.  And those jobs aren’t limited to Colorado and California. Medical marijuana is now legal in 37 states, while 15 states and Washington, DC, have legalized cannabis for all adults.  In Florida, there are now more cannabis workers than plumbers. In Pennsylvania, the state’s famous steel industry employs roughly 36,000 workers — and the state’s not-so-famous legal cannabis industry employs nearly 16,000. In Michigan, there are more cannabis workers than cops.

The annual Leafly Jobs Report, produced in partnership with Whitney Economics, is the nation’s cornerstone cannabis employment study. Federal prohibition prevents the US Department of Labor from counting state-legal marijuana jobs.  Since 2017, Leafly’s news and data teams have filled that gap with a yearly analysis of employment in the legal cannabis sector.  Whitney Economics, a leading consulting firm that specializes in cannabis economics, has partnered with Leafly on the project since 2019.

In real numbers, the cannabis job growth in 2020 represents a doubling of the previous year’s US job growth.  In 2019, the cannabis industry added 33,700 new US jobs for a total of 243,700.  Despite a year marked by a global pandemic, spiking unemployment, and economic recession, the legal cannabis industry added 77,300 full-time jobs in the United States.  That represents 32% year-over-year job growth, an astonishing figure in the worst year for US economic growth since World War II.  Outside the cannabis industry, the US economy shrank by 3.5%, the unemployment rate almost doubled, and nearly 10 million Americans saw their jobs disappear.

February 18, 2021 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Employment and labor law issues, Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (1)

Thursday, February 11, 2021

"The Effect of State Marijuana Legalizations: 2021 Update"

The title of this post is the title of this recent "Policy Analysis" from the folks at the Cato Institute.  This 40-page document was authored by Angela Dills, Sietse Goffard, Jeffrey Miron, and Erin Partin, and here is its executive summary:

In November 2012, Colorado and Washington approved ballot initiatives that legalized marijuana for recreational use under state law.  Since then, nine additional states (Alaska, Oregon, California, Nevada, Maine, Vermont, Massachusetts, Michigan, and Illinois) plus the District of Columbia have followed suit, either by ballot initiative or legislative action.  Voters in four other states (New Jersey, South Dakota, Arizona, and Montana) approved state ballot measures legalizing marijuana for personal use in the November 2020 election.

Supporters and critics make numerous claims about state-level marijuana legalizations.  Advocates suggest that legalization reduces crime, raises tax revenue, lowers criminal justice expenditures, improves public health, increases 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.

In previous work, we found that the strong claims made by both advocates and critics are substantially overstated and in some cases entirely without support from existing legalizations; mainly, state legalizations have had minor effects.  This paper updates previous work to account for additional years of data and the increase in the number of states with legalized marijuana.  Our conclusions remain the same, but our assessments of legalization’s effects remain tentative because of limitations in the data.  The existing data nevertheless provide a useful perspective on what other states should expect from legalization or related policies.

February 11, 2021 in Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (1)

Friday, January 15, 2021

"Cannabis use among military veterans: A great deal to gain or lose?"

DownloadThe title of this post is the title of this notable new meta-analysis of research on marijuana use by veterans just published in the Clinical Psychology Review and authored by Jasmine Turna and James MacKillop. (I found this preprint version of the paper here for those with paywall barriers.)  Here is the paper's abstract:

Policy changes have resulted in dramatic increases in access to cannabis for medical purposes.  Veterans are disproportionately affected by conditions for which medical cannabis is often pursued, making an evidence-based perspective on risks versus benefits of high priority.  The current review sought to examine the state of the evidence on consequences and correlates of cannabis use among veterans.  Using a comprehensive search strategy, 501 articles were identified and 86 studies met criteria for inclusion. The literature was predominated by cross-sectional studies (67%) of male veterans (71.4%–100% male) from the United States (93.0%). 

Three overarching themes emerged, comprising cannabis associations with other substance use, mental health, and physical health outcomes.  The balance of the evidence associated cannabis use with negative health outcomes, with consistent positive associations with other substance use, psychiatric disorders, and self-harm/suicidality.  Few studies examined the therapeutic effects of cannabis, thus limiting the potential to evaluate evidence of efficacy. 

Priority areas for future research are studies using designs that can examine the directionality of links between cannabis and health in veterans more conclusively, and studies directly examining therapeutic efficacy of cannabis-based therapies in veterans.  Methodologically rigorous design will be essential to inform clinical recommendations and practices guidelines in an era of burgeoning access to cannabis.

Because I have always been eager to support giving veterans safe and healthy access to whatever resources they might need, I am pleased to see added focus on this important issue and a call for further research. And I think it notable that many of the studies examined in this meta-analysis pre-date the modern marijuana reform movement, which leads me to wonder whether some of the negative associations with marijuana use might be linked to its prohibited status rather than the drug itself.

January 15, 2021 in Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (1)

Sunday, December 13, 2020

Highlighting again DEPC call for proposals for new Marijuana Research Grants Program

6a00d8341bfae553ef026bdea68922200c-320wiAs I have mentioned before, I am going to keep highlighting the program first flagged in this prior post, namely the new research grant program from the Ohio State Drug Enforcement and Policy Center (DEPC).  DEPC's goal is to fund certain types of new work specifically in the marijuana research/policy space.  Here is the basic overview of the call for proposals:

The Drug Enforcement and Policy Center (DEPC) invites researchers from universities and independent research centers in the United States to submit proposals for funded research focused on implementation and policy impacts of marijuana legalization.  We are specifically interested in research addressing questions related to public health, criminal justice and public safety, as well as their various intersections.  In selection for funding, we are likely to prioritize shorter-term research projects that can help inform the work of lawmakers, regulators and advocates eager to promote evidence-based best practices and policies in future reforms efforts.

In general, grant requests should not exceed $50,000. However, projects exceeding this amount are still encouraged to apply as additional funding could be appropriated.  The deadline for first-round submissions is January 11, 2021; a second round of funding may be announced in February 2021 after the first-round awards are announced.

The full call for proposals can be found here, and this document provides these additional details on topics of interest in this grant program:

Topics may include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Impacts on law enforcement including resource allocation, changes to existing arrest/charging practices, use of fines and fees for enforcement, and broader effects on crime and community relations.
  • Impacts on the criminal justice system including arrests/incarceration rates, outcomes achieved by changes in criminal penalties with cannabis legalization and/or decriminalization, impacts on the juvenile justice system.
  • How federal law currently impacts state-level marijuana reforms and practices across a range of areas (e.g., banking, employment, housing, medical practice and research, tax), and what federal reforms might most effectively and efficiently improve state practices.
  • Changes in rates of diagnosis for cannabis-related substance use disorders; need, availability and efficacy of treatment programs and other counseling services for problematic cannabis use.
  • Impacts and attitudes toward cannabis reform in specific neighborhoods/communities defined both by geography, social-economic status, and demographics.
  • Cost-benefit analyses of marijuana legalization/decriminalization policies and the various budgetary impacts resulting from reforms such as law enforcement savings versus treatment costs.

December 13, 2020 in Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (0)

"Half Banked: The Economic Impact of Cash Management in the Marijuana Industry"

The title of this post is the title of this notable new paper now on SSRN authored by Elizabeth Berger and Nathan Seegert. Here is its abstract:

We investigate the economic effects of cash management services that banks and credit unions offer in the legal marijuana industry, where only half of businesses have access to cash management services.  Administrative data from Washington state on marijuana sales, data on financial institutions, and our hand-collected survey on marijuana dispensaries allow us to investigate product-level effects.  Dispensaries with cash management services have 40% higher profitability, and we find that this is due to reduced frictions with upstream suppliers. Specifically, dispensaries with cash management negotiate 10% lower wholesale prices.  Through this channel, we find banking services provide large economic value.

December 13, 2020 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, December 10, 2020

Via bipartisan voice vote, US House passes bill to expand research on marijuana

As reported in this Politico piece, the "House on Wednesday passed a bill that would make it easier for scientists to conduct marijuana research in states where the drug is legal.  The bill passed on a voice vote with strong bipartisan support."  Here is more:

What’s the context?  Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle agree that more research into the health effects of marijuana is needed.  The bill is co-sponsored by two lawmakers who stand at opposite ends of the spectrum on marijuana legalization: Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) is the unofficial cannabis czar on Capitol Hill, while Rep. Andy Harris (R-Md.) is known for his work on an appropriations rider that restricts Washington D.C. from taxing and regulating a marijuana market.

Marijuana research legislation also has strong support in the Senate, where lawmakers from both parties, including Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), have proposed marijuana research legislation.  This bill, however, does not have a Senate equivalent.

What does this bill do?  Marijuana research now is limited to being based on a few variations grown by the University of Mississippi, the only entity that can legally grow marijuana under federal law for research.  Scientists have complained for years that what is grown for research doesn’t resemble the marijuana used in the real world.

The DEA has never licensed other research cultivators. In 2016, the agency said it would authorize other growers to help facilitate research.  It has received 37 applications, and said in August 2019 that it would move forward with processing those applications.  But no other growers have been greenlighted, and the lack of action on those applications has prompted lawsuits from two applicants....

The bill would amend the Controlled Substances Act to remove limitations on researching marijuana and create a new research structure for the drug.  The bill directs HHS and DOJ to create a program that would license additional producers and manufacturers of research marijuana. Researchers with federal licenses could use that marijuana for FDA-approved research.  The legislation also would speed up the wait times for research marijuana cultivation applications and reduce some of the cumbersome regulations that researchers face when trying to get approval to study marijuana....

What’s next? The Senate is unlikely to bring the bill up for a vote in the final days of this Congress, but its passage sets a marker for the next session.

Because this was passed through a voice vote, we do not get any accounting of how many House members actually supported or opposed this legislation. And it will be quite interesting to see if this modest marijuana reform bill becomes a priority in the next COngress or if instead reform advocates push only for more ambitious reforms.

December 10, 2020 in Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, December 3, 2020

Highlighting again DEPC call for proposals for new Marijuana Research Grants Program

6a00d8341bfae553ef026bdea68922200c-320wiI am going to make a habit of highlighting the program first flagged in this prior post, namely the Ohio State's Drug Enforcement and Policy Center (DEPC) new research grant program.  DEPC's goal is to fund certain types of new work specifically in the marijuana research/policy space.  Here is the basic overview of the call for proposals:

The Drug Enforcement and Policy Center (DEPC) invites researchers from universities and independent research centers in the United States to submit proposals for funded research focused on implementation and policy impacts of marijuana legalization.  We are specifically interested in research addressing questions related to public health, criminal justice and public safety, as well as their various intersections.  In selection for funding, we are likely to prioritize shorter-term research projects that can help inform the work of lawmakers, regulators and advocates eager to promote evidence-based best practices and policies in future reforms efforts.

In general, grant requests should not exceed $50,000. However, projects exceeding this amount are still encouraged to apply as additional funding could be appropriated.  The deadline for first-round submissions is January 11, 2021; a second round of funding may be announced in February 2021 after the first-round awards are announced.

The full call for proposals can be found here, and this document provides these additional details on topics of interest in this grant program:

Topics may include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Impacts on law enforcement including resource allocation, changes to existing arrest/charging practices, use of fines and fees for enforcement, and broader effects on crime and community relations.
  • Impacts on the criminal justice system including arrests/incarceration rates, outcomes achieved by changes in criminal penalties with cannabis legalization and/or decriminalization, impacts on the juvenile justice system.
  • How federal law currently impacts state-level marijuana reforms and practices across a range of areas (e.g., banking, employment, housing, medical practice and research, tax), and what federal reforms might most effectively and efficiently improve state practices.
  • Changes in rates of diagnosis for cannabis-related substance use disorders; need, availability and efficacy of treatment programs and other counseling services for problematic cannabis use.
  • Impacts and attitudes toward cannabis reform in specific neighborhoods/communities defined both by geography, social-economic status, and demographics.
  • Cost-benefit analyses of marijuana legalization/decriminalization policies and the various budgetary impacts resulting from reforms such as law enforcement savings versus treatment costs.

December 3, 2020 in Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, November 23, 2020

"Trends in Adolescent Treatment Admissions for Marijuana in the United States, 2008–2017"

126027997_3443829359064341_5275240354102147479_n-768x1005The title of this post is the title of this notable new publication from the CDC's Preventing Chronic Disease series authored by Jeremy Mennis.  (Hat tip Marijuana Moment.)  Here are the highlights and action sections that conclude the piece (with some sentences highlighted):

Highlights

The map, visually dominated by blue tones, clearly shows that adolescent treatment admissions for marijuana declined in most of states.  The mean annual admissions rate for all states declined over the study period by nearly half, from 60 (admissions per 10,000 adolescents) in 2008 to 31 in 2017, with state admissions rate slopes ranging from −0.42 to 0.19 (median = –0.28).  State admissions rates in 2008 ranged from fewer than 1 to 218 (median = 52); in 2017 they ranged from fewer than 1 to 167 (median = 21). Admissions rates increased over the study period in only 7 states, 6 of which (excepting North Dakota) have relatively low mean admissions rates (states colored lighter orange).  Low mean admissions rates tend to occur in a loose band extending from the Southwest through the South, Appalachia, and into parts of New England.  All 12 states in the high mean admissions rate class sustained admissions declines, with 10 of those states having declines in the steepest category (states colored darkest blue).  Consistent with prior research on medical marijuana and adolescent marijuana use (12), medical legalization status does not appear to correspond to treatment admission trends.  Notably, however, 7 of 8 states with recreational legalization during the study period fall into the class with the steepest level of admissions decline.

Action

To our knowledge, this map is the first to illustrate state level trends in adolescent treatment admissions for marijuana, and the trends depicted can inform public health responses to changing marijuana laws.  Possible causes for the overall decline, and variations among states, in admissions trends include changes in attitudes toward marijuana, as well as differences among states in marijuana use and incidence of CUD, as well as in socioeconomic status, treatment availability, and health insurance (5).  Whatever the causes of the observed patterns, however, this research suggests that a precipitous national decline in adolescent treatment admissions, particularly in states legalizing recreational marijuana use, is occurring simultaneously with a period of increasing permissiveness, decreasing perception of harm, and increasing adult use, regarding marijuana (4,13).  These trends indicate the need for sustained vigilance in the prevention and treatment of youth CUD during this period of expanding marijuana legalization.

November 23, 2020 in Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, November 21, 2020

"Marijuana Legalization and Household Spending on Food and Alcohol"

The title of this post is the title of this interesting new paper recently posted to SSRN and authored by Thanh Lu. Here is its abstract:

Utilizing the Consumer Expenditure Interview Survey from 2005 to 2018, I study spending on food and alcohol following recreational marijuana legalization (RML).  Exploiting differences in the timing of the passage of RMLs and employing differences-in-differences methods, I find that households located in RML states increase their quarterly spending on food by $67.69, which is driven mainly by spending on food consumed away from home.  Legalization of recreational marijuana also leads to increased quarterly spending on alcohol by $11.23. These findings suggest a complementarity between food, alcohol, and marijuana.

November 21, 2020 in Recreational Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, November 20, 2020

DEPC call for proposals for new Marijuana Research Grants Program

2020-Marijuana-Research-Grant-Call-for-Proposals_for-social-and-web-1I am very excited that Ohio State's Drug Enforcement and Policy Center (DEPC) is starting a new research grant program to fund work specifically in the marijuana research/policy space.  Here is the basic overview of the call for proposals:

The Drug Enforcement and Policy Center (DEPC) invites researchers from universities and independent research centers in the United States to submit proposals for funded research focused on implementation and policy impacts of marijuana legalization.  We are specifically interested in research addressing questions related to public health, criminal justice and public safety, as well as their various intersections.  In selection for funding, we are likely to prioritize shorter-term research projects that can help inform the work of lawmakers, regulators and advocates eager to promote evidence-based best practices and policies in future reforms efforts.

In general, grant requests should not exceed $50,000. However, projects exceeding this amount are still encouraged to apply as additional funding could be appropriated.  The deadline for first-round submissions is January 11, 2021; a second round of funding may be announced in February 2021 after the first-round awards are announced.

The full call can be found here, and this document provides these additional details on topics of interest in this grant program:

Topics may include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Impacts on law enforcement including resource allocation, changes to existing arrest/charging practices, use of fines and fees for enforcement, and broader effects on crime and community relations.
  • Impacts on the criminal justice system including arrests/incarceration rates, outcomes achieved by changes in criminal penalties with cannabis legalization and/or decriminalization, impacts on the juvenile justice system.
  • How federal law currently impacts state-level marijuana reforms and practices across a range of areas (e.g., banking, employment, housing, medical practice and research, tax), and what federal reforms might most effectively and efficiently improve state practices.
  • Changes in rates of diagnosis for cannabis-related substance use disorders; need, availability and efficacy of treatment programs and other counseling services for problematic cannabis use.
  • Impacts and attitudes toward cannabis reform in specific neighborhoods/communities defined both by geography, social-economic status, and demographics.
  • Cost-benefit analyses of marijuana legalization/decriminalization policies and the various budgetary impacts resulting from reforms such as law enforcement savings versus treatment costs.

November 20, 2020 in Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, September 5, 2020

"Effects of Marijuana Legalization on Law Enforcement and Crime: Final Report"

Images (13)The title of this post is the title of this lengthy new report, which was made possible by funding from the National Institute of Justice and which digs deeply into law enforcement and crime experiences after Washington state legalized marijuana. The study covers lots of important ground in thoughtful and diverse ways, and here are part of its lengthy abstract:

In 2012 the citizens of Washington State, via Initiative 502, legalized possession of a small amount of cannabis by adults.  On July 1, 2014 licensed retail outlets in Washington opened with a regulated and monitored product. The effects that this legalization would have on crime and law enforcement in the state were open questions.  In this National Institute of Justice-funded study we employed a mix of quantitative and qualitative approaches geared toward addressing these questions. Research partners and participants included municipal, county, state and tribal law enforcement agencies representing 14 state, urban, suburban, rural, and tribal organizations in Washington the neighboring state of Idaho, as well as law enforcement professionals from 25 additional agencies and organizations.  Focus group, joint, and individual interviews involved 153 justice system officials that included sworn officers from three multi-agency drug task forces and one gang task force....  We constructed case study profiles and assessed qualitative (focus groups, interviews) and quantitative (Uniform Crime Reporting Program or UCR, calls for service records, and body/dash camera footage) data regarding how police practices and strategies, and crime itself, have been affected by legalization in Washington, and how that watershed decision in Washington has changed policing in adjacent border areas....

We found that marijuana legalization has not had an overall consistently positive or negative effect on matters of public safety.  Instead, legalization has resulted in a varied set of outcomes, including: concern about youth access to marijuana and increased drugged driving, a belief that there is increased cross border transference of legal marijuana to states that have not legalized, reports that training and funding for cannabis-related law enforcement activities have been deficient given the complex and enlarged role the police have been given, and the persistence of the complex black market.  On the “positive” front, legalization appears to have coincided with an increase in crime clearance rates in several areas of offending and an overall null effect on rates of serious crime.  Importantly, the legalization of marijuana has reduced the number of persons brought into the criminal justice system by non-violent marijuana possession offenses.  The police were also greatly concerned about how to best handle the detection and documentation of marijuana-related impairment in both commercial vehicle operations and traffic incidents.  The state has adopted the Target Zero goal of no traffic fatalities by 2030 and the legalization of marijuana and the privatization of liquor sales have combined to make accomplishment of this worthy goal extremely difficult.

Our research methodology necessarily included a number of limitations that would prevent the wholesale generalization of the results.  For instance, most of the data was collected from one state (Washington) which was one of the two “pioneer” states involved in legalization in this country.  Furthermore, the calls for service data were obtained from a limited number of agencies and are likely not generalizable to the entire state, much less the country.  The crime data is extracted from the UCR database (as not all of Washington was National Incident Based Reporting System [NIBRS] compliant for all years under study) is known to suffer from a number of limitations, including: undercounting of some crimes, a lack of contextual information about criminal activity, and missing incidents not reported to the police.  While the calls for service data address some limitations of the UCR database (for instance, calls for service data are better suited for the analysis of minor crimes), these data still do not address the limitation that only incidents reported to the police are analyzed.  Put simply, if legalization resulted in a shift in criminal behavior that was not reported to the police, our quantitative analyses would be incapable of detecting it.  Similarly, the body-worn camera (BWC) analysis was exploratory in nature and the data represent two agencies that are geographically and organizationally disparate.  As an exploratory component, these results are not generalizable.

The qualitative findings of this study offer insight into the lived experiences of officers, deputies, troopers, trainers, supervisors, administrators, and prosecutors, and are not without their limitations.  Our qualitative data are limited by issues of generalizability (they may not represent the opinions of law enforcement professionals more broadly) and potentially be issues of selection bias (it is possible that those with the strongest opinions were perhaps most likely to volunteer to participate in focus groups and interviews).  As with any research design employing purposive sampling, these results are not generalizable.  They do not represent the lived experiences of all law enforcement officers or justice system representatives, nor adequately capture the totality of the lived experiences of this study’s participants.... These results emphasized and sought to document experiences pre- and post-legalization. While we made every effort to restrain our analysis to issues involving cannabis legalization effects on law enforcement and crime, our participants, as reflected in our findings, often gravitated towards broader frustrations involving police resourcing, training, and prosecutorial practices.  Lastly, while our qualitative data is wellsuited for capturing the perceptions of police officers, they are also limited in this regard.  Police perceptions of legalization may be skewed and not reflective of the broader process of legalization.

September 5, 2020 in Criminal justice developments and reforms, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, July 23, 2020

"Marijuana Legalization and Youth Marijuana, Alcohol, and Cigarette Use and Norms"

DownloadThe title of this post is the title of this new research from multiple authors published this month in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. Here is its abstract:

Introduction

Rates of adolescent substance use have decreased in recent years.  Knowing whether nonmedical marijuana legalization for adults is linked to increases or slows desirable decreases in marijuana and other drug use or pro-marijuana attitudes among teens is of critical interest to inform policy and promote public health.  This study tests whether nonmedical marijuana legalization predicts a higher likelihood of teen marijuana, alcohol, or cigarette use or lower perceived harm from marijuana use in a longitudinal sample of youth aged 10–20 years.

Methods

Data were drawn from the Seattle Social Development Project–The Intergenerational Project, an accelerated longitudinal study of youth followed both before (2002–2011) and after nonmedical marijuana legalization (2015–2018).  Analyses included 281 youth surveyed up to 10 times and living in a state with nonmedical marijuana legalization between 2015 and 2018 (51% female; 33% white, 17% African American, 10% Asian/Pacific Islander, and 40% mixed race or other).

Results

Multilevel modeling in 2019 showed that nonmedical marijuana legalization predicted a higher likelihood of self-reported past-year marijuana (AOR=6.85, p=0.001) and alcohol use (AOR 3.38, p=0.034) among youth when controlling birth cohort, sex, race, and parent education.  Nonmedical marijuana legalization was not significantly related to past-year cigarette use (AOR=2.43, p=0.279) or low perceived harm from marijuana use (AOR=1.50, p=0.236) across youth aged 10–20 years.

Conclusions

It is important to consider recent broad declines in youth substance use when evaluating the impact of nonmedical marijuana legalization.  States that legalize nonmedical marijuana for adults should increase resources for the prevention of underage marijuana and alcohol use.

July 23, 2020 in Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

"The Spillover Effect of Recreational Marijuana Legalization on Crime: Evidence From Neighboring States of Colorado and Washington State"

The title of this post is the title of this new research paper published in the Journal of Drug Issues and authored by Guangzhen Wu, Francis D. Boateng and Xiaodong Lang.  Here is its abstract:

An ongoing debate exists about the implications of recreational marijuana legalization to public safety.  One important public concern is how recreational marijuana legalization may affect crime in neighboring states that have not legalized.  Based on Uniform Crime Report (UCR) data from 2003 to 2017, this study used difference-in-differences (DID) analysis to examine the potential spillover effect of recreational marijuana legalization in Colorado and Washington State, with a special focus on the examination of the changes in the rates of a variety of crimes in the border counties of neighboring states relative to the nonborder counties in these states following Colorado’s and Washington’s legalization.

Results provide some evidence suggesting a spillover crime reduction effect of legalization, as reflected by the significant decreases in the rates of property crime, larceny, and simple assault in the Colorado region that includes six neighboring states.  Results also suggest that the effects of marijuana legalization on crime in neighboring states vary based on crime type and state.

July 14, 2020 in Criminal justice developments and reforms, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Notable new research and commentary on marijuana reforms and traffic fatalities

Download (2)The JAMA Internal Medicine journal has this week published online notable new original research and commentary on roadway fatalities in some states that have legalized marijuana use by all adults (called RCL in the works).  Here is the main piece and its main results and conclusions from its abstract:

"Association of Recreational Cannabis Laws in Colorado and Washington State With Changes in Traffic Fatalities, 2005-2017":

Results

Implementation of RCLs was associated with increases in traffic fatalities in Colorado but not in Washington State.  The difference between Colorado and its synthetic control in the post-RCL period was 1.46 deaths per 1 billion vehicle miles traveled (VMT) per year (an estimated equivalent of 75 excess fatalities per year; probability = 0.047).  The difference between Washington State and its synthetic control was 0.08 deaths per 1 billion VMT per year (probability = 0.674).  Results were robust in most sensitivity analyses.  The difference between Colorado and synthetic Colorado was 1.84 fatalities per 1 billion VMT per year (94 excess deaths per year; probability = 0.055) after excluding neighboring states and 2.16 fatalities per 1 billion VMT per year (111 excess deaths per year; probability = 0.063) after excluding states without MCLs.  The effect was smaller when using the enactment date (24 excess deaths per year; probability = 0.116).

Conclusions and Relevance

This study found evidence of an increase in traffic fatalities after the implementation of RCLs in Colorado but not in Washington State.  Differences in how RCLs were implemented (eg, density of recreational cannabis stores), out-of-state cannabis tourism, and local factors may explain the different results.  These findings highlight the importance of RCLs as a factor that may increase traffic fatalities and call for the identification of policies and enforcement strategies that can help prevent unintended consequences of cannabis legalization.

And here are two follow-up pieces published with this main piece:

Invited Commentary: "Reducing Impaired Driving Fatalities: Data Need to Drive Testing, Enforcement, and Policy"

Research Letter: "Change in Traffic Fatality Rates in the First 4 States to Legalize Recreational Marijuana"

June 23, 2020 in Criminal justice developments and reforms, Medical community perspectives, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (1)

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

"A Road Map to Recreational Marijuana Taxation"

TF_FF713_fig_7The title of this post is the title of this great new 39-page report from the Tax Foundation authored by Ulrik Boesen.  Here are the "Key Points" that are set forth at the start of the document:

• Legal recreational marijuana sales are ongoing in nine states, covering 27 percent of the U.S. population.  In 2018, 10.5 percent of adult Americans had used marijuana products in the last 30 days.

• States have designed different excise tax systems for recreational marijuana.  While most tax based on price, states also tax marijuana based on weight or THC content.

• An excise tax on recreational marijuana should target the externality and raise sufficient revenue to fund marijuana-related spending while simultaneously outcompeting illicit operators.  Excise taxes should not be implemented in an effort to raise general fund revenue.

• Changes to federal law would have implications for the tax revenue in states with legalized marijuana.  If businesses had better access to banking, federal tax deductions, or interstate trading, prices would most likely fall.

• High taxes may limit adoption by minors and non-users but could hurt the competitiveness of the legal market.  Low taxes may allow easy conversion from the illicit market but could increase consumption among non-users and minors.  Taxing by price may not be stable, taxing by weight could encourage use of high potency products, and taxing by potency could complicate tax collection and add significant costs to both tax collectors and industry.

• A potency- and weight-based tax defined by THC levels may be the best short-term solution for lawmakers assuming that THC is an appropriate proxy for the externalities associated with consuming marijuana

June 9, 2020 in Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Taxation information and issues | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

New research on racial disparities in traffic stops and searches highlights how marijuana reform reduces searches (but not racial disparities)

2The events of the last week with its focus on police practices make all the more notably this already notable recent study, titled " A large-scale analysis of racial disparities in police stops across the United States," published by the journal Nature Human Behavior.   Here is the article's abstract, with one line highlighted:

We assessed racial disparities in policing in the United States by compiling and analysing a dataset detailing nearly 100 million traffic stops conducted across the country. We found that black drivers were less likely to be stopped after sunset, when a ‘veil of darkness’ masks one’s race, suggesting bias in stop decisions.  Furthermore, by examining the rate at which stopped drivers were searched and the likelihood that searches turned up contraband, we found evidence that the bar for searching black and Hispanic drivers was lower than that for searching white drivers.  Finally, we found that legalization of recreational marijuana reduced the number of searches of white, black and Hispanic drivers — but the bar for searching black and Hispanic drivers was still lower than that for white drivers post-legalization.  Our results indicate that police stops and search decisions suffer from persistent racial bias and point to the value of policy interventions to mitigate these disparities. 

Here is more from the text of the article in the section titled "The effects of legalization of marijuana on stop outcomes":

In line with expectations, we find that the proportion of stops [in Colorado and Washington] that resulted in either a drug-related infraction or misdemeanour fell substantially in both states after marijuana was legalized at the end of 2012....

[Also] we found that after the legalization of marijuana the number of searches fell substantially in Colorado and Washington (Fig. 4), ostensibly because the policy change removed a common reason for conducting searches.

Because black and Hispanic drivers were more likely to be searched before legalization, the policy change reduced the absolute gap in search rates between race groups; however, the relative gap persisted, with black and Hispanic drivers still more likely to be searched than white drivers post-legalization.  We further note that marijuana legalization had secondary impacts for law-abiding drivers, because fewer searches overall also meant fewer searches of those without contraband.  In the year after legalization in Colorado and Washington, about one-third fewer drivers were searched with no contraband found than in the year before legalization.

As further evidence that the observed drop in search rates in Colorado and Washington was due to marijuana legalization, we note that in the 12 states where marijuana was not legalized — and for which we have the necessary data — search rates did not exhibit sharp drops at the end of 2012 (Fig. 5).

Despite the legalization of marijuana decreasing search rates across race groups, Fig. 4 shows that the relative disparity between whites and minorities remained.  We applied the threshold test to assess the extent to which this disparity in search rates may reflect bias.  Examining the inferred thresholds (shown in Supplementary Fig. 3), we found that white drivers faced consistently higher search thresholds than minority drivers, both before and after marijuana legalization.  The data thus suggest that, although overall search rates dropped in Washington and Colorado, black and Hispanic drivers still faced discrimination in search decisions.

June 2, 2020 in Criminal justice developments and reforms, Race, Gender and Class Issues, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, May 18, 2020

"Too young for Cannabis? Choice of minimum legal age for legalized non-medical Cannabis in Canada"

The title of this post is the title of this interesting new research by multiple authors now appearing in the journal BMC Public Health.  Here is its abstract:

Background

Choice of minimum legal age (MLA) for cannabis use is a critical and contentious issue in legalization of non-medical cannabis.  In Canada where non-medical cannabis was recently legalized in October 2018, the federal government recommended age 18, the medical community argued for 21 or even 25, while public consultations led most Canadian provinces to adopt age 19.  However, no research has compared later life outcomes of first using cannabis at these different ages to assess their merits as MLAs.

Methods

We used doubly robust regression techniques and data from nationally representative Canadian surveys to compare educational attainment, cigarette smoking, self-reported general and mental health associated with different ages of first cannabis use.

Results

We found different MLAs for different outcomes: 21 for educational attainment, 19 for cigarette smoking and mental health and 18 for general health.  Assuming equal weight for these individual outcomes, the ‘overall’ MLA for cannabis use was estimated to be 19 years.  Our results were robust to various robustness checks.

Conclusion

Our study indicated that there is merit in setting 19 years as MLA for non-medical cannabis.

May 18, 2020 in International Marijuana Laws and Policies, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, May 1, 2020

Is anyone closely tracking state or national marijuana arrest data during this coronavirus era?

20170927_weedThough I have been thinking about the question in the title of this post for a few weeks now, this new Marijuana Moment article finally got me to work on this post.   The piece is titled "Thousands Of Constituents Urge Governors To Deprioritize Marijuana Enforcement Amid Coronavirus," and here are excerpts:

The marijuana reform group NORML is leading an effort to encourage states to deprioritize the enforcement of cannabis criminalization amid the coronavirus pandemic.  So far, more than 4,000 constituents across the country have participated in the organization’s action campaign launched on Wednesday by sending messages to their governors, urging them to take steps to minimize the spread of the virus by avoiding unnecessary marijuana arrests.

NORML created customized email blasts to supporters in all 39 states that have yet to legalize marijuana for adult use.  Each one contains a link to a suggested prewritten letter asking the governor to abide by the group’s public health recommendations during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Beyond deprioritizing marijuana enforcement, the organization said states should also drop existing charges for nonviolent cannabis violations “in order to reduce non-essential interactions,” review and release those currently incarcerated for marijuana convictions and waive pending probation requirements for cannabis-related cases.

Though I am unaware of any proclamations that formally call for police and prosecutors to deprioritize marijuana enforcement, it is my sense that functionally a lot of police and other law enforcement are deprioritizing all sorts of low-level criminal enforcement. For example, this local article on plummeting arrest rates notes:

In some places, police leaders have been frank about ordering officers to cease arresting for low-level crimes. In some places, prosecutors are refusing to pursue such cases. For example, Philadelphia police have been ordered to avoid arrests for crimes like drug offenses and burglaries. Instead, they are issuing warrants to be processed once the health crisis abates, according to reporting by the Associated Press.

Similarly, consider this local piece from Indiana: "The sheriff’s office is making fewer arrests to combat the spread of disease, [Jay County Sheriff] Ford said. For those charged with most non-violent misdemeanors and drug-related Level 6 felonies, court summons are being issued instead of them being arrested."  And this piece from Austin, Texas with some more specifics: "Austin posted the fewest number of arrests in the month of March for at least four years....  Some of the largest declines include a 75% drop in traffic warrant arrests, to 33 arrests this March from 132 arrests in March 2019.  A similar drop was also seen in the number of those arrested and charged with possession of marijuana."

I am not knocking NORML for seeking a  formal call for police and prosecutors to deprioritize marijuana enforcement, but I am really interest in seeing whatever data might be available concerning just how much enforcement is currently afoot.  My guess is relatively little, though still arguably a lot more than is healthy or just during these weird and uncertain times.

Eventually, but likely at least a few years from now, we will get official FBI arrest data for 2020 and we will all surely see a wide array of notable "COVID" craters.  I sure hope someone might be collecting and assessing the marijuana arrest data a lot sooner.

May 1, 2020 in Criminal justice developments and reforms, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)