Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform

Editor: Douglas A. Berman
Moritz College of Law

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

"The Cannabis Effect on Crime: Time-Series Analysis of Crime in Colorado and Washington State"

Justice_quarterly_front_and_The title of this post is the title of this notable new research by multiple authors just now published in the journal Justice Quarterly.  Here is its abstract and part of its conclusions:

Abstract

Previous studies based on relatively weak analytical designs lacking contextualization and appropriate comparisons have reported that the legalization of marijuana has either increased or decreased crime.  Recognizing the importance for public policy making of more robust research designs in this area during a period of continuing reform of state marijuana laws, this study uses a quasi-experimental, multi-group interrupted time-series design to determine if, and how, UCR crime rates in Colorado and Washington, the first two states to legalize marijuana, were influenced by it.  Our results suggest that marijuana legalization and sales have had minimal to no effect on major crimes in Colorado or Washington.  We observed no statistically significant long-term effects of recreational cannabis laws or the initiation of retail sales on violent or property crime rates in these states....

Conclusions

Authors of previous studies (Berenson, 2019; NHIDTA, 2016; Smart Approaches to Marijuana. (2018) argue that legalization is associated with an increase in crime.  Our results suggest that cannabis laws more broadly, and the legalization of recreational marijuana more specifically, have had minimal effect on major crime in Colorado or Washington State.  We observed virtually no statistically significant long-term effects of recreational marijuana legalization or retail sales on violent or property crime rates, except for a significant decline of burglary rates in Washington.  There were some immediate increases in crime at the point of legalization, but these did not result in long-term effects.  It is difficult to study trends for less serious crimes, as the UCR only includes arrest data for these offenses and not offenses known.  Though NIBRS data presents an attractive alternative, not all of Washington is NIBRS compliant and many of the agencies that are reporting NIBRS data have not done so for a long enough period of time pre-legalization for time series modeling to be examined.  Still, the results related to serious crime are quite clear: the legalization of marijuana has not resulted in a significant upward trend in crime rates.  Our results are robust in that we examined the first two states to legalize marijuana and compared them to states with no marijuana laws at all.  Moreover, we estimated our models in a variety of manners, including models with different interruption points, single-group interrupted time series analyses, and as a set of pooled cross-sectional models. None of our models revealed long term effects of marijuana legalization on serious crime rates.

In concert with recent research results from Makin et al. (2019), our results from Colorado and Washington suggest that legalization has not had major detrimental effects on public safety.  Having said this we would caution that it would also be premature to suggest that legalization renders substantial increases in public safety, as the rates of most crimes remained steady in this study in the post-legalization period and because crime is not the only measure of public safety.  Additional work is needed to examine the effect of legalization on other public safety outcomes, including public and mental health measures.

October 8, 2019 in Criminal justice developments and reforms, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (2)

"Measuring the Criminal Justice System Impacts of Marijuana Legalization and Decriminalization Using State Data"

Thanks to this posting at Marijuana Moment, I just now saw a study with the same title as the title of this post.   This study, which was authored by Erin Farley and Stan Orchowsky and was supported "using funding from the National Institute of Justice, between the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) and the Justice Research and Statistics Association," sought "to address three research questions: (1) What are the impacts of marijuana legalization and decriminalization on criminal justice resources in Colorado, Washington, and Oregon?; (2) What are the impacts on criminal justice resources in states that border those that have legalized marijuana? This includes Nebraska, Nevada, Oklahoma, Utah, and Kansas; and (3) What are the impacts of marijuana legalization and decriminalization on drug trafficking through northern and southwest border states?  This includes Arizona, California, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington."

Notably, the paper highlights that state Statistical Analysis Centers (SACs) "were unable to provide the requested information" to answer these questions as a result of the fact that the requested data "did not exist because they were not being tracked or they were being tracked/collected but were not readily available because they were not being reported in any systematic way to a centralized agency." Data limitations notwithstanding and subject to other caveats about analytical challenges, the report ends noting "some general conclusions can be offered based on the analyses of the quantitative and qualitative data presented here."  Here are excerpts from these conclusions:

First, it indeed seems to be the case that legalizing the recreational use of marijuana results in fewer marijuana related arrests and court cases.  Whether we look at arrests or court case filings for possession or distribution, marijuana related offenses seem to have decreased in Oregon and Washington since legalization of recreational use. In most cases, these decreases appear to have started well before legislation was enacted, perhaps reflecting changes in law enforcement policies and practices in anticipation of the coming policy changes.

Interviews with law enforcement officials, though based on the perceptions of only a small number of respondents, provided insight into a number of concerns with regard to legalization of marijuana, including the potency of marijuana products, increased marijuana use among youth, and increases in incidents of drugged driving.  All of these anecdotal “findings” may potentially be verified empirically, provided that law enforcement agencies collect the requisite data and make it available for analysis. It should also be noted that several of the law enforcement officers interviewed indicated that methamphetamine and heroin were much larger problems for their agencies than was marijuana.

Our efforts to address the second question, regarding border states, were limited by the lack of availability of data in these states.  Nevertheless, for the data we examined, we saw no evidence that marijuana legalization had an impact on indicators in border states. Marijuana-related arrests and charges did not increase in either the state as a whole or, in the case of Nebraska, in counties that directly border the state that legalized marijuana, after legalization. It is possible that additional indicators or a longer follow-up time period might reveal impacts in these states and localities.  The few interviews we conducted in one border state (Nebraska) suggested increases in the potency of marijuana and in incidents of driving under the influence of marijuana. Again, these are perceptions that should be verified by future research.

The third question, related to drug trafficking, was particularly challenging to address.  Relatively few individuals were charged with trafficking in the data we examined, and it is difficult to identify other indicators of trafficking in state and local data.  However, in the data we did examine we found no indications of increases in arrests related to transportation/trafficking offenses.  Interview results suggested that drug trafficking had indeed increased in some states, including border states. Again, it is possible that different indicators, examined over a longer period of time, might reveal impacts of marijuana legalization on drug trafficking.

October 8, 2019 in Criminal justice developments and reforms, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Rocky Mountain HIDTA releases sixth annual report on "impact" of marijuana legalization in Colorado

High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Programs (HIDTAs) are, as explained here, a special kind of drug-enforcement task force that was "created by Congress with the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988 [and] provides assistance to Federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies operating in areas determined to be critical drug-trafficking regions of the United States." The Rocky Mountain HIDTA has been especially focused on marijuana reform in Colorado, and it has produced regular annual reports around this time under the title "The Legalization of Marijuana in Colorado: The Impact." Volume six of that report, which runs around 70 pages and was just release, can be accessed at this link.

Here are excerpts from the report's executive summary highlighting some of coverage:

Section I: Traffic Fatalities & Impaired Driving

  • Since recreational marijuana was legalized, traffic deaths in which drivers tested positive for marijuana increased 109 percent while all Colorado traffic deaths increased 31 percent.
  • Since recreational marijuana was legalized, traffic deaths involving drivers who tested positive for marijuana more than doubled from 55 in 2013 to 115 people killed in 2018....

Section II: Marijuana Use

Since recreational marijuana was legalized:

  • Past month marijuana use for ages 12 and older increased 58 percent and is 78 percent higher than the national average, currently ranked 4th in the nation.
  • Adult marijuana use increased 94 percent and is 96 percent higher than the national average, currently ranked 4th in the nation.
  • College age marijuana use increased 18 percent and is 48 percent higher than the national average, currently ranked 6th in the nation.
  • Youth marijuana use decreased 14 percent and is 40 percent higher than the national average, currently ranked 6th in the nation.

Section III: Public Health

  • The yearly number of emergency department visits related to marijuana increased 54 percent after the legalization of recreational marijuana (2013 compared to 2017).
  • The yearly number of marijuana-related hospitalizations increased 101 percent after the legalization of recreational marijuana (2013 compared to 2017).

As I have noted before, the these RMHIDTA "Impact" reports are clearly exclusively interested in emphasizing and lamenting any and all potential negative impacts from marijuana reform in Colorado while deemphasizing and mariginalizing any and all potential positive impacts. This bias toward emphasizing the negative and ignoring positive impacts is most obvious in terms of the report's (almost non-existant) discussion of the economic development and tax revenues resulting from legalization. Jobs created by marijuana reform are not mentioned anywhere in the report, and a short discussion of tax revenues in the final sections of the report highlights only what a small portion of the overall state tax revenue is represented by marijuana taxes.

But, as I have also said before, despite these reporting biases, this report still usefully assembles lots of data and usefully represents the latest, greatest effort by the law enforcement community to make the case that marijuana reform in Colorado is a failed experiment.  Serious students of marijuana law and policy should take the time to review what this report says and how it is saying what it is saying, while also keeping in mind what data is not here assembled.

September 18, 2019 in Criminal justice developments and reforms, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

"Keeping up with the times: how national public health and governmental organizations communicate about cannabis on Twitter"

The title of this post is the title of this new "Short Report" authored by Jenna van Draanen, Tanvi Krishna, Christie Tsang and Sam Liu for the journal Substance Abuse Treatment, Prevention, and Policy.  Recognizing the partial M.C. Escher-like quality of blogging (and automatically tweeting) this piece, here is its abstract:

Background

Public health and governmental organizations are expected to provide guidance to the public on emerging health issues in accessible formats.  It is, therefore, important to examine how such organizations are discussing cannabis online and the information that is being provided to the public about this increasingly legal and available substance.

Methods

This paper presents a concise thematic analysis of both the volume and content of cannabis-related health information from selected (n = 13) national-level public health and governmental organizations in Canada and the U.S. on Twitter.

Results

There were eight themes identified in Tweets including 1) health-related topics; 2) legalization and legislation; 3) research on cannabis; 4) special populations; 5) driving and cannabis; 6) population issues; 7) medical cannabis, and 8) public health issues.  The majority of cannabis-related Tweets from the organizations studied came from relatively few organizations and there were substantial differences between the topics covered by U.S. and Canadian organizations.  The organizations studied provided limited information regarding how to use cannabis in ways that will minimize health-related harms.

Conclusions

Authoritative organizations that deal with public health may consider designing timely social media communications with emerging cannabis-related information, to benefit a general public otherwise exposed to primarily pro-cannabis content on Twitter.

September 18, 2019 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Web/Tech, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, September 15, 2019

"Fatal crashes in the 5 years after recreational marijuana legalization in Colorado and Washington"

The title of this post is the title of this new research by multiple authors published in the November 2019 issue of the journal Accident Analysis & Prevention.  Here is its abstract:

Colorado and Washington legalized recreational marijuana in 2012, but the effects of legalization on motor vehicle crashes remains unknown. Using Fatality Analysis Reporting System data, we performed difference-in-differences (DD) analyses comparing changes in fatal crash rates in Washington, Colorado and nine control states with stable anti-marijuana laws or medical marijuana laws over the five years before and after recreational marijuana legalization.  In separate analyses, we evaluated fatal crash rates before and after commercial marijuana dispensaries began operating in 2014.

In the five years after legalization, fatal crash rates increased more in Colorado and Washington than would be expected had they continued to parallel crash rates in the control states (+1.2 crashes/billion vehicle miles traveled, CI: -0.6 to 2.1, p = 0.087), but not significantly so.  The effect was more pronounced and statistically significant after the opening of commercial dispensaries (+1.8 crashes/billion vehicle miles traveled, CI: +0.4 to +3.7, p = 0.020).  These data provide evidence of the need for policy strategies to mitigate increasing crash risks as more states legalize recreational marijuana.

September 15, 2019 in Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

"Not in my backyard? Not so fast. The effect of marijuana legalization on neighborhood crime"

The title of this post is the title of this new research appearing in the journal Regional Science and Urban Economics authored Jeffrey Brinkman and David Mok-Lamme. Here is its abstract:

This paper studies the effects of marijuana legalization on neighborhood crime and documents the patterns in retail dispensary locations over time using detailed micro-level data from Denver, Colorado.  To account for endogenous retail dispensary locations, we use a novel identification strategy that exploits exogenous changes in demand across different locations arising from the increased importance of external markets after the legalization of recreational marijuana sales.  The results imply that an additional dispensary in a neighborhood leads to a reduction of 17 crimes per month per 10,000 residents, which corresponds to roughly a 19 percent decline relative to the average crime rate over the sample period.  Reductions in crime are highly localized, with no evidence of spillover benefits to adjacent neighborhoods.   Analysis of detailed crime categories provides insights into the mechanisms underlying the reductions.

September 4, 2019 in Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, August 26, 2019

"DEA Announces Steps Necessary to Improve Access to Marijuana Research"

US._Dept_of_Justice_DEAThe title of this post is the title of this notable new Department of Justice press release.  Here is its full text:

The Drug Enforcement Administration today announced that it is moving forward to facilitate and expand scientific and medical research for marijuana in the United States. The DEA is providing notice of pending applications from entities applying to be registered to manufacture marijuana for researchers. DEA anticipates that registering additional qualified marijuana growers will increase the variety of marijuana available for these purposes.

Over the last two years, the total number of individuals registered by DEA to conduct research with marijuana, marijuana extracts, derivatives and delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) has increased by more than 40 percent from 384 in January 2017 to 542 in January 2019. Similarly, in the last two years, DEA has more than doubled the production quota for marijuana each year based on increased usage projections for federally approved research projects.

“I am pleased that DEA is moving forward with its review of applications for those who seek to grow marijuana legally to support research,” said Attorney General William P. Barr. “The Department of Justice will continue to work with our colleagues at the Department of Health and Human Services and across the Administration to improve research opportunities wherever we can.”

“DEA is making progress in the program to register additional marijuana growers for federally authorized research, and will work with other relevant federal agencies to expedite the necessary next steps,” said DEA Acting Administrator Uttam Dhillon. “We support additional research into marijuana and its components, and we believe registering more growers will result in researchers having access to a wider variety for study.”

This notice also announces that, as the result of a recent amendment to federal law, certain forms of cannabis no longer require DEA registration to grow or manufacture. The Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, which was signed into law on Dec. 20, 2018, changed the definition of marijuana to exclude “hemp”—plant material that contains 0.3 percent or less delta-9 THC on a dry weight basis. Accordingly, hemp, including hemp plants and cannabidiol (CBD) preparations at or below the 0.3 percent delta-9 THC threshold, is not a controlled substance, and a DEA registration is not required to grow or research it.

Before making decisions on these pending applications, DEA intends to propose new regulations that will govern the marijuana growers program for scientific and medical research. The new rules will help ensure DEA can evaluate the applications under the applicable legal standard and conform the program to relevant laws. To ensure transparency and public participation, this process will provide applicants and the general public with an opportunity to comment on the regulations that should govern the program of growing marijuana for scientific and medical research.

August 26, 2019 in Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, August 25, 2019

"The Pot Rush: Is Legalized Marijuana A Positive Local Amenity?"

The title of this post is the title of this notable new article authored by Diego Zambiasi and Steven Stillman recently published in Economic Inquiry.  Here is its abstract:

This paper examines the amenity value of legalized marijuana by analyzing the impact of marijuana legalization on migration to Colorado.  Colorado is the pioneering state in this area having legalized medical marijuana in 2000 and recreational marijuana in 2012.  We test whether potential migrants to Colorado view legalized marijuana as a positive or negative local amenity.  We use the synthetic control methodology to examine in‐ and out‐migration to/from Colorado versus migration to/from counterfactual versions of Colorado that have not legalized marijuana.

We find strong evidence that potential migrants view legalized marijuana as a positive amenity with in‐migration significantly higher in Colorado compared with synthetic‐Colorado after the writing of the Ogden memo in 2009 that effectively allowed state laws already in place to be activated, and additionally after marijuana was legalized in 2013 for recreational use.  When we employ permutation methods to assess the statistical likelihood of our results given our sample, we find that Colorado is a clear and significant outlier.  We find no evidence for changes in out‐migration from Colorado suggesting that marijuana legalization did not change the equilibrium for individuals already living in the state.

August 25, 2019 in Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Terrific new Pew issue brief highlights hazy nature of marijuana revenue for states

The fine folks at Pew have this very fine new brief about state marijuana tax revenues titled "Forecasts Hazy for State Marijuana Revenue."  I recommend this 16-page document (which is also available on-line here) for many reasons, and here is its astute conclusion:

Supporters of legalizing recreational marijuana expected a new revenue source for states, but market uncertainties continue to challenge revenue forecasters and policymakers.  The difficulty in forecasting revenue is compounded by the fact that states have only recently begun to understand the recreational marijuana market: the level of consumer demand for recreational marijuana products, the types of users and how much they might pay for the drug, and competition with the black market.  States have learned some lessons but continue to grapple with unknowns.

While forecasters and budget staff gain more information, state officials can avoid budget shortfalls and keep program funding stable by being prudent in how they use these new collections.  States should be careful to distinguish between marijuana revenue’s short-term growth and long-term sustainability.  While these new dollars can fill immediate budget needs, they may prove unreliable for ongoing spending demands.  Policymakers should look to other, more familiar sin taxes for lessons on how to manage marijuana tax revenue most effectively.

August 21, 2019 in Business laws and regulatory issues, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Taxation information and issues | Permalink | Comments (2)

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

"What America's Users Spend on Illegal Drugs, 2006–2016"

Download (4)The title of this post is the title of this remarkable new RAND report authored by Gregory Midgette, Steven Davenport, Jonathan Caulkins and Beau Kilmer.  This webpage provides this account of what appears in the nearly 100-page full report:

Substance use and drug policy are clearly in the national spotlight. Provisional data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggest that drug overdose deaths in 2018 exceeded 68,000, of which more than 47,000 involved opioids.  Although heroin, prescription opioids, and synthetic opioids (such as fentanyl) receive most of the attention, deaths involving methamphetamine and cocaine are both on the rise. In addition, more than 25 percent of the U.S. population lives in states that have passed laws that allow for-profit firms to produce and sell marijuana for nonmedical purposes to adults ages 21 and older.

To better understand changes in drug use outcomes and policies, policymakers need to know what is happening in the markets for these substances.  This report updates and extends estimates of the number of users, retail expenditures, and amount consumed from 2006 to 2016 for cocaine (including crack), heroin, marijuana, and methamphetamine in the United States, based on a methodology developed by the RAND Corporation for the Office of National Drug Control Policy. The report also includes a discussion of what additional types of data would help quantify the scale of these markets in the future, including the new types of information produced by the legalization of marijuana at the state level.

Key Findings

  • People who use drugs in the United States spent on the order of $150 billion on cocaine, heroin, marijuana, and methamphetamine in 2016. The marijuana market is roughly the size of the cocaine and methamphetamine markets combined, and the size of the retail heroin market is now closer to the size of the marijuana market than it is to the other drugs.
  • After falling precipitously from 2006 to 2010, cocaine consumption's decline slowed by 2015. Results suggest there were 2.4 million individuals who used cocaine on four or more days in the past month in 2015 and 2016. Results also suggest that consumption grew in 2016 among a stable number of users as price per pure gram declined.
  • Heroin consumption increased 10 percent per year between 2010 and 2016. The introduction of fentanyl into heroin markets has increased the risk of using heroin.
  • From 2010 to 2016, the number of individuals who used marijuana in the past month increased nearly 30 percent, from 25 million to 32 million. The authors estimate a 24 percent increase in marijuana spending over the same period, from $42 billion to $52 billion.
  • Methamphetamine estimates are subject to the greatest uncertainty because national data sets do not do a good job of capturing its use. There was a steady increase in the amount of methamphetamine seized within the United States and at the southwest border from 2007 through 2016, and a commensurate increase in use over the 2010–2016 period.

Recommendations

  • For marijuana, household and student surveys could be updated to collect more information about the type and quantity of products consumed. Legalization is producing new types of information through state "seed-to-sale" tracking systems, market surveys, delivery services, loyalty card programs, and other sources. Figuring out how data from these new sources can be mined to develop insights about the markets should be a priority.
  • With respect to the other drugs, bringing back the Arrestee Drug Abuse Monitoring program or some version of it would be enormously useful, particularly if it included objective (biological) consumption measures.  For example, it is possible to detect fentanyl in urine specimens even if the user did not know he or she had consumed fentanyl because it appeared as an adulterant in some other drug.
  • Wastewater testing is another approach for estimating consumption that has received much more attention outside of the United States.  Although the utility of this method will depend on the type of substance examined, the science is advancing, is readily scalable, and could provide insights about drug consumption at the local level.

Notably, Chapter 5 is devoted to a discussion of marijuana use.

August 20, 2019 in Recreational Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, August 11, 2019

"After the Grand Opening: Assessing Cannabis Supply and Demand in Washington State"

The title of this post is the title of a notable new RAND Research Report authored by Beau Kilmer, Steven Davenport, Rosanna Smart, Jonathan Caulkins and Gregory Midgette.  This 54-page report can be downloaded from this RAND webpage, which also sets out the research questions, an overview, key findings and a recommendation:

Research Questions

What types of cannabis products are produced and sold in Washington State?

What is the size of the cannabis market in Washington State three years after licensing cannabis production and sales for nonmedical purposes?

Overview

This report provides detailed information about state-legal cannabis production and sales in Washington, as well as insights about the total amount of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) obtained from legal and illegal sources by Washington residents.  Using data from Washington's traceability system, the authors estimate that approximately 26 metric tons (MT) of THC were sold in licensed retail stores in Washington from July 1, 2016, through June 30, 2017.  About 18 MT were from flower, 6 MT from extracts for inhalation, and the remaining 1–2 MT from other products.  This 26 MT is more than double the amount of THC sold in licensed stores in the previous year. Calculating the total amount of THC obtained by residents via legal and illegal sources is difficult with existing data sources, but using additional data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health and a survey of cannabis users in Washington, author calculations suggest that in the third year after implementing a regulatory system for cannabis, between 40 percent and 60 percent of THC obtained by state residents was likely purchased in Washington's state-licensed stores.  Learning more about why some residents are still obtaining cannabis products through other channels, what share of legal sales are to nonresidents, and the efficiency of various cannabis products at delivering THC and other cannabinoids would be fruitful areas for future analysis.

Key Findings

  • Approximately 26 MT of THC were sold in licensed retail stores in Washington from July 1, 2016, through June 30, 2017.
  • About 18 MT were from flower, 6 MT from extracts for inhalation, and the remaining 1–2 MT from other products.
  • This 26 MT is more than double the amount of THC sold in licensed stores in the previous year.
  • Calculating the total amount of THC obtained by residents via legal and illegal sources is difficult with existing data sources, but using additional data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health and a survey of cannabis users in Washington, author calculations suggest that in the third year after implementing a regulatory system for cannabis, between 40 percent and 60 percent of THC obtained by state residents was likely purchased in Washington's state-licensed stores.

Recommendation

  • Learning more about why some residents are still obtaining cannabis products through other channels, what share of legal sales are to nonresidents, and the efficiency of various cannabis products at delivering THC and other cannabinoids would be fruitful areas for future analysis.

August 11, 2019 in Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, August 9, 2019

"The Effects of Recreational Marijuana Legalization and Dispensing on Opioid Mortality"

The title of this post is the title of this notable new article recently published in the journal Economic Inquiry authored by Nathan Chan, Jesse Burkhardt and Matthew Flyr.  Here is its abstract:

This study documents how the changing legal status of marijuana has impacted mortality in the United States over the past two decades.  We use a difference‐in‐difference approach to estimate the effect of medical marijuana laws (MML) and recreational marijuana laws (RML) on fatalities from opioid overdoses, and we find that marijuana access induces sharp reductions in opioid mortality rates.  Our research corroborates prior findings on MMLs and offers the first causal estimates of RML impacts on opioid mortality to date, the latter of which is particularly important given that RMLs are far more expansive in scope and reach than MMLs.

In our preferred econometric specification, we estimate that RMLs reduce annual opioid mortality in the range of 20%–35%, with particularly pronounced effects for synthetic opioids.  In further analysis, we demonstrate how RML impacts vary among demographic groups, shedding light on the distributional consequences of these laws. Our findings are especially important and timely given the scale of the opioid crisis in the United States and simultaneously evolving attitudes and regulations on marijuana use.

August 9, 2019 in Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

"The short-run effects of marijuana dispensary openings on local crime"

The title of this post is the title of this notable new empirical article authored by Jesse Burkhardt and Chris Goemans.  Here is its abstract:

The recent legalization of marijuana in several states has led to increased public interest regarding the effect of legalization on crime.  Yet, there is limited empirical evidence relating the legalization of marijuana use and distribution to criminal activity.  This paper uses a difference-in-differences design to estimate the effect of marijuana dispensary openings on local crime rates in Denver, Colorado. 

We find that the opening of dispensaries actually decreases violent crime rates in above median income neighborhoods, an important finding in light of increased political debate surrounding legalization.  We also find robust evidence that non-marijuana drug-related crimes decrease within a half-mile of new dispensaries but do not simultaneously increase within a half-mile to mile of new dispensaries, with one possible explanation being that legal marijuana sales and hard drug sales are local substitutes.  Finally, in line with previous research, we find that vehicle break-ins increase up to a mile away from new dispensaries.

Cross-posted at SENTENCING LAW AND POLICY.

August 6, 2019 in Criminal justice developments and reforms, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

"Is Cannabis a Gateway Drug? Key Findings and Literature Review"

The title of this post is the title of this lengthy report published in November 2018 produced by the Federal Research Division of the Library of Congress in conjunction with the National Institute of Justice.  For some reason, I missed this notable report when it was first released and tripped across it just this past week.  Here are the three lead findings of the full report:

1. The existing statistical research and analysis show mixed results and do not clearly demonstrate scientific support for cannabis use leading to harder illicit drug use.  As a result, FRD has determined that no causal link between cannabis use and the use of other illicit drugs can be claimed at this time.

2. The current state of research on this topic is very limited and existing studies suffer from difficulties in gathering information and applying the findings to a larger population.

3. While many of the studies reviewed in this report did find statistically significant associations between cannabis use and one’s later use of other illicit drugs, there is not yet conclusive evidence to assert that cannabis is a gateway drug. Moreover, the practical significance of these findings was limited.

July 16, 2019 in Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (1)

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Notable new data run suggest marijuana reform not (yet?) resulting in increase in teen marijuana use

Earlier this week, the journal JAMA Pediatrics published this notable "Research Letter" titled "Association of Marijuana Laws With Teen Marijuana Use: New Estimates From the Youth Risk Behavior Surveys."  This AP article reports on its findings and why the research is garnering attention:

New research suggests legalizing recreational marijuana for U.S. adults in some states may have slightly reduced teens’ odds of using pot. One reason may be that it’s harder and costlier for teens to buy marijuana from licensed dispensaries than from dealers, said lead author Mark Anderson, a health economist at Montana State University.

The researchers analyzed national youth health and behavior surveys from 1993 through 2017 that included questions about marijuana use. Responses from 1.4 million high school students were included.

Thirty-three states have passed medical marijuana laws and 11 have legalized recreational use — generally for ages 21 and up, many during the study years. The researchers looked at overall changes nationwide, but not at individual states. There was no change linked with medical marijuana legislation but odds of teen use declined almost 10% after recreational marijuana laws were enacted....

Previous research has found no effect on teen use from medical marijuana laws, and conflicting results from recreational marijuana laws. The new results echo a study showing a decline in teen use after sales of recreational pot began in 2014 in Washington state. The results “should help to quell some concerns that use among teens will actually go up. This is an important piece when weighing the costs and benefits of legalization,” Anderson said.

But Linda Richter, director of policy research and analysis at the nonprofit Center on Addiction, questioned the new findings. The center is a drug use prevention and treatment advocacy group. “It sort of defies logic to argue that more liberal recreational marijuana laws somehow help to dissuade young people from using the drug,” Richter said.

Other studies have found that, in states where use is legal, fewer teens think it is risky or harmful than the national average, she said. And teens in those states still have access to marijuana. “There is plenty of research showing that the black market for marijuana is alive and well in states that have legalized recreational use,” Richter said.

As the title of this post suggest, I think it is still way too early to reach any clear conclusions about how marijuana reform laws are impacting marijuana use among any and all populations. I am glad there is a robust effort to keep a close eye on these teen use data, and lots of factors surely impact use patterns locally and nationally.  So this seems to me another bit of data in a story that we must keep watching for many years to come (along with teen use of alcohol and other drugs in a modern marijuana reform era).

July 10, 2019 in History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, July 5, 2019

"Use of Cannabis to Relieve Pain and Promote Sleep by Customers at an Adult Use Dispensary"

Ujpd20.v051.i02.coverThe title of this post is the title of this notable new research authored by Marcus Bachhuber, Julia Arnsten and Gwen Wurm and published in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs.  Here is its abstract and concluding paragraph:

Medical cannabis patients consistently report using cannabis as a substitute for prescription medications; however, little is known about individuals accessing cannabis through adult-use markets.  A survey at two retail stores was conducted in Colorado, United States.  Between August 2016 and October 2016, store staff asked customers if they wanted to participate and, if so, provided an electronic survey link.  All customers reporting medical certification were excluded.  Of 1,000 adult-use only customer respondents, 65% reported taking cannabis to relieve pain and 74% reported taking cannabis to promote sleep. 

Among respondents taking cannabis for pain, 80% reported that it was very or extremely helpful, and most of those taking over-the-counter pain medications (82%) or opioid analgesics (88%) reported reducing or stopping use of those medications.  Among respondents taking cannabis for sleep, 84% found it very or extremely helpful, and most of those taking over-the-counter (87%) or prescription sleep aids (83%) reported reducing or stopping use of those medications.  De facto medical use of cannabis for symptom relief was common among adult-use dispensary customers and the majority reported that cannabis decreased their medication use.  Adult use cannabis laws may broaden access to cannabis for the purpose of symptom relief.....

In summary, we found that de facto medical cannabis use is common among adult use customers at a cannabis dispensary.  Both pain relief and sleep promotion are common reasons for cannabis use, and the majority of respondents who reported using cannabis for these reasons also reported decreasing or stopping their use of prescription or over-the-counter analgesics and sleep aids.  While adult-use laws are frequently called “recreational,” implying that cannabis obtained through the adult use system is only for pleasure or experience-seeking, our findings suggest that many customers use cannabis for symptom relief.

July 5, 2019 in Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Colorado reports having collected over $1 billion in marijuana revenue since legalization

Colorado public agencies yesterday produced this news release titled "Colorado marijuana industry continues to grow, revenue surpasses $1 billion to date."  Here are excerpts:

Colorado has surpassed $1 billion in marijuana revenue to date since adult-use marijuana sales began in 2014, according to the Colorado Department of Revenue (CDOR)’s monthly reports for marijuana sales and revenue data released today.

“Today’s report continues to show that Colorado’s cannabis industry is thriving, but we can’t rest on our laurels.  We can and we must do better in the face of increased national competition.  We want Colorado to be the best state for investment, innovation and development for this growing economic sector,” said Governor Polis.  “This industry is helping grow our economy by creating jobs and generating valuable revenue that is going towards preventing youth consumption, protecting public health and safety and investing in public school construction.”

To date, marijuana tax, license and fee revenue has reached just over $1.02 billion and marijuana sales to date exceeded $6.56 billion.  Currently, Colorado has 2,917 licensed marijuana businesses and 41,076 individuals who are licensed to work in the industry....

Marijuana revenue supports statewide efforts such as licensing and regulation of legal marijuana businesses, youth prevention efforts, behavioral health treatment, protecting public health and safety, and coordination across state agencies.

Marijuana tax revenue funds Colorado Department of Education programs such as the Building Excellent Schools Today (BEST) capital construction assistance fund, as well as the Early Literacy Competitive Grant Program, School Health Professional Grant Program and the School Bullying Prevention and Education Grant Program.

The Colorado Department of Human Services uses marijuana revenue funds to support community behavioral health programs including mental health services for juveniles and adults, crisis services, criminal justice diversion, the Circle Program, substance use disorder and detoxification services.  Additionally, funds support Mental Health Institutes at Pueblo and Fort Logan and Tony Grampsas Youth Services Program, which is a collection of community based programs that target youth and their families for prevention and intervention services in the effort to reduce incidents of youth crime and violence, to prevent youth marijuana use, and prevent child abuse and neglect.

June 13, 2019 in Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Taxation information and issues | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Notable analysis of full legalization's impact on medical marijuana regimes

800The AP has this new extended article, headlined "Broad legalization takes toll on medical pot," which looks at the impact of full marijuana legalization on medical marijuana programs.  Here are some excerpts:

When states legalize pot for all adults, long-standing medical marijuana programs take a big hit, in some cases losing more than half their registered patients in just a few years, according to a data analysis by The Associated Press.

Much of the decline comes from consumers who, ill or not, got medical cards in their states because it was the only way to buy marijuana legally and then discarded them when broader legalization arrived. But for people who truly rely on marijuana to control ailments such as nausea or cancer pain, the arrival of so-called recreational cannabis can mean fewer and more expensive options....

States see a “massive exodus” of medical patients when they legalize marijuana for all adults — and then, in many cases, the remaining ones struggle, said David Mangone, director of government affairs for Americans for Safe Access. “Some of the products that these patients have relied on for consistency — and have used over and over for years — are disappearing off the shelves to market products that have a wider appeal,” he said. Cost also rises, a problem that’s compounded because many of those who stay in medical programs are low-income and rely on Social Security disability, he said.

In Oregon, where the medical program shrank the most following recreational legalization, nearly two-thirds of patients gave up their medical cards, the AP found. As patients exited, the market followed: The number of medical-only retail shops fell from 400 to two, and hundreds of growers who contracted with individual patients to grow specific strains walked away.

Now, some of the roughly 28,000 medical patients left are struggling to find affordable medical marijuana products they’ve relied on for years. While the state is awash in dry marijuana flower that’s dirt cheap, the specialized oils, tinctures and potent edibles used to alleviate severe illnesses can be harder to find and more expensive to buy....

Ten states have both medical and recreational markets. Four of them — Oregon, Nevada, Colorado, Alaska — have the combination of an established recreational marketplace and data on medical patients. The AP analysis found all four saw a drop in medical patients after broader legalization.

In Alaska, the state with the second-biggest decline, medical cardholders dropped by 63% after recreational sales began in 2016, followed by Nevada with nearly 40% since 2017 and Colorado with 19% since 2014.

The largest of all the legal markets, California, doesn’t keep data on medical patients, but those who use it say their community has been in turmoil since recreational pot debuted last year. That’s partly because the state ended unlicensed cannabis cooperatives where patients shared their homegrown pot for free....

Getting a precise nationwide count of medical patients is impossible because California, Washington and Maine don’t keep data. However, absent those states, the AP found at the end of last year nearly 1.4 million people were active patients in a medical marijuana program. The AP estimates if those states were added the number would increase by about 1 million.

As more states legalize marijuana for all adults, some who have been using it medically are feeling disenfranchised.

In Michigan, where medical marijuana has been legal for over a decade, the creation of a new licensing system for medical dispensaries has sparked court challenges as the state prepares for the advent of general marijuana sales later this year. A cancer patient there filed a federal lawsuit this month, alleging the slow licensing pace has created a shortage of the products she needs to maintain her weight and control pain.

In Washington, medical patients feel they were pushed aside when that state merged its medical and general-use markets, which also is what’s happening in California. Los Angeles dispensary owner Jerred Kiloh sells medical and recreational marijuana and said those markets are quickly becoming one, since few companies are going to produce products for a vanishing group of customers. He said his medical business has dipped to 7% of overall sales and is dropping month to month. “It’s going to be gone,” said Kiloh, president of the LA trade group United Cannabis Business Association.

June 11, 2019 in Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (1)

Thursday, June 6, 2019

SAM releases latest big report on "Lessons Learned from State Marijuana Legalization"

The leading national group opposed to modern marijuana reform, Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM), has this big new report titled "Lessons Learned from State Marijuana Legalization"  Here is the short "Executive Highlights" from the start of the report:

Today’s highly potent marijuana represents a growing and significant threat to public health and safety, a threat that is amplified by a new marijuana industry intent on profiting from heavy use.

State laws allowing marijuana sales and consumption have permitted the marijuana industry to flourish, and in turn, the marijuana industry has influenced both policies and policy-makers.  While the consequences of these policies will not be known for decades, early indicators are troubling.

This report, reviewed by prominent scientists and researchers, serves as an evidence-based guide to what we currently observe in various states.  We attempted to highlight studies from all the “legal” marijuana states (i.e., states that have legalized the non-medical use of marijuana).  Unfortunately, data does not exist for several “legal” states, and so this document synthesizes the latest research on marijuana impacts in states where information is available.

Disappointingly, this report does not cover data comprehensively on any single topic from any one state nor does it effectively detail similar data across a number of states.  Rather, as seems common with SAM reports, this latest report focuses on the most troublesome data from a few states to make the case that marijuana reform is creating big problems.  In this way, the report serves as a good review of some of the strongest "data talking points" against marijuana reform, but it does not really provide a sound basis to reach sound conclusions about what lessons should be learned from modern marijuana reforms.

June 6, 2019 in History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

"Harm Reduction in Domestic Violence: Does Marijuana Make Assaults Safer?"

The title of this post is the title of this interesting new paper now available via SSRN authored by Jacob Kaplan and Li Sian Goh.  Here is its abstract:

While all forms of domestic violence can be uniquely traumatizing, incidents resulting in serious injury can lead to lasting physical, mental, and financial consequences for the victim.  Hence, it is surprising that most literature on the effects of policy intervention on domestic violence treats such incidents as homogeneous rather than considering differing levels of victim injury.  This study provides evidence that decriminalization of marijuana leads to substantial declines in victim injury.  Among domestic violence assaults where the victim suffered a serious injury, there was a significant decline in incidents where the offender was under the influence of alcohol or used a weapon.

May 15, 2019 in Criminal justice developments and reforms, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (0)