Friday, November 20, 2020
I 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.
Saturday, September 5, 2020
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.
Thursday, July 23, 2020
The 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:
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
Tuesday, June 23, 2020
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:
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:
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
The 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)
The 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.
Monday, May 18, 2020
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:
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.
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.
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.
Our study indicated that there is merit in setting 19 years as MLA for non-medical cannabis.
Friday, May 1, 2020
Though 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.
Monday, April 27, 2020
The title of this post is the title of this notable new paper appearing in the May 2020 issue of the International Journal of Drug Policy and authored by Jonathan Caulkins, Bryce Pardo and Beau Kilmer. Here is its abstract:
Drug use is often measured in terms of prevalence, meaning the number of people who used any amount in the last month or year, but measuring the quantity consumed is critical for making informed regulatory decisions and estimating the effects of policy changes. Quantity is the product of frequency (e.g., number of use days in the last month) and intensity (amount consumed per use day). Presently, there is imperfect understanding of the extent to which more frequent users also consume more intensively.
Methods and data
We examine cannabis flower consumption reported in three similar online surveys fielded in times and places where cannabis was and was not legal. These convenience samples returned enough valid responses (n = 2,618) to examine consumption across different frequencies of use via analyses of measures of central tendency, data visualizations, and multivariate regressions. Additional calculations incorporate data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health.
Respondents who reported using daily (i.e., 30 days in the past month) consumed almost twice as much per day of use on average as did those reporting less than daily. We find only modest increases in intensity among those using less than daily, but then a substantial increase (p< 0.001) for those who use daily. Most respondents report that on heavy or light use days their consumption differs from a typical day of use by a factor of 2 or more, but only about 25% of days were described as heavy or light. We estimate those using cannabis 21+ days a month account for 80% of consumption vs. 71% of the days of use.
Daily cannabis users consume more intensively than others, including near-daily users. When possible, survey questions should move beyond the presence or absence of use and number of days used.
Tuesday, April 7, 2020
As I mentioned in this recent post, students in my Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform seminar are now "taking over" my class by making presentations on research topics of their choice. Though the COVID-19 crisis means my resilient students are doing their presenting to the class online, going online has been going pretty well so far.
As regular readers know, students provide in this space a little background on their topic and links to some relevant materials before they present. Our first presentation planned for this week will focus on marijuana-influenced driving, and here is how my student has described his topic along with background readings he has provided for classmates (and the rest of us):
Marijuana legalization proponents quite often compare marijuana use to that of alcohol, claiming that alcohol consumption is far more dangerous, especially when a vehicle is involved. Legalization dissenters, on the other hand, often make the argument that legalization would lead to rampant use and, inevitably, increases in traffic fatalities and damages as the result of people driving while stoned. The aim of my class presentation and paper is to explore three topics related to Driving Under the Influence of Marijuana, or, as I like to call it, "High Driving": (1) Marijuana’s effect on driving ability, (2) The different state approaches to testing and prosecuting High Driving, and (3) what research shows about the relationship between the different legal marijuana regimes, the prevalence of High Driving, and the resulting consequences.
For background on these three interrelated topics, please reference the resources below:
"Drug Impaired Driving/Marijuana Drug-Impaired Driving Laws" (slightly out of date)
April 7, 2020 in Assembled readings on specific topics, Business laws and regulatory issues, Criminal justice developments and reforms, Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (0)
Wednesday, April 1, 2020
The Drug Enforcement and Policy Center has just created a short new survey intended to help explore how COVID-19 is impacting the cannabis industry. The survey link is here, and this is the basic set up:
As the COVID-19 pandemic surges across the United States, the crisis continues to affect every aspect of the economy. In response to the pandemic, Congress passed the CARES Act to provide relief to small businesses across the country.
However, the cannabis industry is ineligible for the act’s benefits due to federal prohibition. In addition, the particular challenges that small and minority-owned cannabis businesses face were not addressed in the early discussions about the industry’s ability to persevere throughout the crisis.
We want to hear from you.
In an effort to learn more about the issues cannabis businesses and consumers are experiencing during the pandemic, and how government entities could best address these issues, DEPC has created a 3-minute survey.
Please complete and share our survey with your networks.
Saturday, March 7, 2020
The title of this post is the title of this notable new research by multiple authors appearing in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. Here is its abstract:
The objective of this study is to assess the changes in rates of juvenile cannabis criminal allegations and racial disparities in Oregon after legalization of cannabis (July 2015) for adults.
This study included all allegations for cannabis-related offenses that occurred from January 2012 to September 2018 in Oregon. Negative binomial regression models were used to examine monthly cannabis allegation rates over time, and tested differences between youth of color and white youth, adjusting for age, gender, and month the allegation occurred. Analysis was conducted in January–March 2019.
Cannabis allegation rates increased 28% among all youth and 32% among cannabis-using youth after legalization. Rates of allegations were highest for American Indian/Alaska Native and black youth. Rates for black youth were double that of whites before legalization, and this disparity decreased after legalization. For American Indian/Alaska Native youth, rates were higher than whites before legalization, and this disparity remained unchanged.
Adult cannabis legalization in Oregon was associated with increased juvenile cannabis allegations; increases are not explained by changes in underage cannabis use. Relative disparities decreased for black youth but remained unchanged for American Indian/Alaska Native youth. Changing regulations following adult cannabis legalization could have unintended negative impacts on youth.
The paper cites to this notable similar work published last year in JAMA Pediatrics titled "Youth and Adult Arrests for Cannabis Possession After Decriminalization and Legalization of Cannabis." That study, looking at arrest data through 2016, found that "arrest rates of youths significantly decreased in states that decriminalized cannabis possession for everyone but did not decrease in states that legalized adult use."
Importantly, these studies are looking at arrest data only to and through a few years after state marijuana reforms. I know Colorado experiences an interesting spike in juvenile marijuana arrests the year right after dispensaries opened, but then there was a notable decline in arrests thereafter. These are important numbers, but I think we really need to keep examining them over a greater time period before reaching any firm conclusions about enforcement patterns.
Tuesday, February 25, 2020
The title of this post is the title of this new "technical report" from the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction and authored by Bryce Pardo, Beau Kilmer and Rosalie Liccardo Pacula of the RAND Europe/RAND Drug Policy Research Center. The full 76-page report is worth reviewing in full, and here are some excerpts from the report's executive summary:
To learn more about these new cannabis regimes and their consequences, the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) commissioned a review of the changes governing recreational cannabis policies in the Americas and an overview of preliminary evaluations. Findings from this research are intended to inform discussions about the development of a framework for monitoring and evaluating policy developments related to cannabis regulatory reform. Key insights include the following.
In addition to the populations of Canada and Uruguay, more than 25 % of the US population lives in states that have passed laws to legalise and regulate cannabis production, sales and possession/use for recreational purposes. In the US, allowing licensed production and sales is often at the discretion of sub-state jurisdictions, which may impose further zoning restrictions on cannabis-related activities. This variation can complicate analyses that attempt to compare legalisation and non-legalisation states, especially when the outcome data are not representative at state level.
The peer-reviewed literature on cannabis legalisation is nascent, and we observe conflicting results depending on which data and methods are used, as well as which implementation dates and policies are considered. It is important to remain sceptical of early studies, especially those that use a simple binary variable to classify legalisation and non-legalisation states. This scepticism should extend to the many studies that fail to account for the existence of robust commercial medical cannabis markets that predate non-medical recreational cannabis laws. Even if a consensus develops on certain outcomes, it does not mean that a relationship will hold over time. Changes in the norms about cannabis use and potentially other substances, the maturation of markets and the power of private businesses (if allowed) could lead to very different outcomes 15 or 25 years after recreational cannabis laws have passed. Evaluations of these changes must be considered an ongoing exercise, not something that should happen in the short term....
One insight arising from the evaluations of the regulatory changes in the Americas to date is the importance of the amount and range of data collected before the change; simply comparing past-month prevalence rates will not tell us much about the effect of the change on health. While US jurisdictions have been moving quickly to legalise the use of cannabis, the data infrastructure for evaluating these changes is limited. In contrast, Canada has made important efforts to field new surveys and create new data collection programmes in anticipation of legal changes. This highlights the importance of any jurisdictions that are considering changes to the regulatory framework for cannabis starting to think about improving data collection and analysis systems in advance.
While there is much to learn from what is happening in the Americas, policy discussions should not be limited to approaches that have been implemented there. There are several regulatory tools (e.g. minimum pricing, potency-based taxes) that receive very little attention — if any — that could have important consequences for health, public safety and/or social equity. It needs to be recognised that all decisions of this nature involve trade-offs and acknowledging that individuals (and governments) have different values and preferences for risk when it comes to cannabis policy is important for productive debates on this controversial topic.
February 25, 2020 in International Marijuana Laws and Policies, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)
Wednesday, February 19, 2020
"Colorado marijuana sales hit a record $1.75 billion in 2019: Cannabis sales have now reached a total of $7.79 billion in the 6 years since legalization"
The title of this post is the full headline of this new Denver Post piece, which provides a reminder of how easy it is to identify (some) economic metrics that follow from marijuana reform. Here are the details:
Last year was the most lucrative 12 months for cannabis sales in Colorado since the state’s voters legalized recreational marijuana. Medical and recreational cannabis sales hit a record $1.75 billion in 2019, up 13% from 2018, according to data from the Department of Revenue’s Marijuana Enforcement Division. Marijuana tax collections also hit an all-time high, at more than $302 million in 2019.
December closed out the year with strong sales totaling more than $144 million, up 6.7% compared to the previous year. But that wasn’t the biggest month of 2019; instead, August topped the calendar year with $173 million in sales. All told, Colorado marijuana sales now have hit $7.79 billion since recreational sales began in 2014.
Truman Bradley, the newly appointed executive director of the Marijuana Industry Group, said the revenue increases in Colorado track with expectations. “People are moving from the unregulated market to the regulated market,” Bradley said. “As reefer madness goes away, as the stigmatism of cannabis reduces and people come over to the regulated market, I would expect that trend to continue.”
Since January 2014, Colorado’s cannabis industry has generated $1.21 billion in tax revenue. Those taxes are allocated to the state’s public education fund, which covers initiatives such as the Colorado Department of Education’s Building Excellent Schools Today (BEST) fund; the state general fund, which covers agencies’ expenses; and the marijuana tax fund, which benefits programs related to substances abuse and treatment, health research, youth education and more. Tax revenues also benefit local governments.
In recent posts (here and here and here) and in my marijuana seminar, I have been exploring in various ways what might be the proper metrics for assessing medical marijuana reform regimes. This new data from Colorado, in turn, prompts similar questions about assessing recreational reform regimes. I am inclined to believe these numbers represent positive economic realities like increased employment, wealth and valuable wealth reallocation via taxes. But public health experts might see these numbers as representing negative health trends and they might also perhaps demonstrate problematic wealth reallocation from the vulnerable to the already privileged.
February 19, 2020 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 (0)
Sunday, February 9, 2020
This story at Leafly, headlined "Cannabis Jobs Report: Legal cannabis now supports 243,700 full-time American jobs," reports on Leafly's effort to account for job creation in the legal marijuana industry. Here are excerpts:
How many jobs are there in the legal marijuana industry? Leafly’s annual Cannabis Jobs Report found 243,700 full-time-equivalent (FTE) jobs supported by legal cannabis as of January 2020.
Even in a down year, the marijuana industry added 33,700 jobs. That’s a 15% year-over-year increase. Over the past 12 months the expanding industry has created 33,700 new jobs nationwide, making legal marijuana the fastest-growing industry in America.
This year’s jobs count found Massachusetts, Oklahoma, and Illinois leading the employment expansion. As its adult-use market passed its one-year anniversary, Massachusetts added 10,226 jobs. Meanwhile, Oklahoma’s robust medical marijuana industry added more than 7,300 jobs in the past year.
Florida also saw amazing growth in 2019. With more than 300,000 registered medical marijuana patients, Florida now has the most medical patients of any state. That growth in the patient base, along with the start of smokeable flower sales, boosted Florida to a 93% increase in total sales....
California remains America’s biggest legal cannabis employer. But Colorado may be the nation’s biggest per-capita marijuana job market, with one job per 165 residents. California, by contrast, offers one job per 980 residents.
Colorado also continues to outpace Washington state. Both states legalized cannabis for all adults in 2012, but Colorado’s industry boasts nearly 10,000 more jobs than Washington, even though Washington boasts nearly two million more residents.
Both Colorado and Washington posted strong 8% growth six years after their retail stores opened, indicating that legal stores are still drawing customers away from illicit sellers, and steadily attracting more adult consumers from non-traditional demographics.
Leafly’s full report, which includes includes a state-by-state analysis of all medical and adult-use states, is available at this link.
Thursday, January 16, 2020
This new CNN article covers some interesting new driving research, although like lots of media this CNN piece -- and especially its headline ("Weed impairs driving skills long after the high is gone") -- obscures some nuances of the research. I always recommend checking out the original research, which here appears in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence. The research article is headlined "Recreational cannabis use impairs driving performance in the absence of acute intoxication," and here is its abstract:
Across the nation, growing numbers of individuals are exploring the use of cannabis for medical or recreational purposes, and the proportion of cannabis-positive drivers involved in fatal crashes increased from 8 percent in 2013 to 17 percent in 2014, raising concerns about the impact of cannabis use on driving. Previous studies have demonstrated that cannabis use is associated with impaired driving performance, but thus far, research has primarily focused on the effects of acute intoxication.
The current study assessed the potential impact of cannabis use on driving performance using a customized driving simulator in non-intoxicated, heavy, recreational cannabis users and healthy controls (HCs) without a history of cannabis use.
Overall, cannabis users demonstrated impaired driving relative to HC participants with increased accidents, speed, and lateral movement, and reduced rule-following. Interestingly, however, when cannabis users were divided into groups based on age of onset of regular cannabis use, significant driving impairment was detected and completely localized to those with early onset (onset before age 16) relative to the late onset group (onset ≥16 years old). Further, covariate analyses suggest that impulsivity had a significant impact on performance differences.
Chronic, heavy, recreational cannabis use was associated with worse driving performance in non-intoxicated drivers, and earlier onset of use was associated with greater impairment. These results may be related to other factors associated with early exposure such as increased impulsivity.
Thursday, January 2, 2020
"Trends in college students’ alcohol, nicotine, prescription opioid and other drug use after recreational marijuana legalization: 2008–2018"
The title of this post is the title of this notable new research to be pubished in the journal Addictive Behaviors. Here is its abstract:
Young adult college students may be particularly sensitive to recreational marijuana legalization (RML). Although evidence indicates the prevalence of marijuana use among college students increased after states instituted RML, there have been few national studies investigating changes in college students’ other substance use post-RML.
The cross-sectional National College Health Assessment-II survey was administered twice yearly from 2008 to 2018 at four-year colleges and universities. Participants were 18–26 year old undergraduates attending college in states that did (n = 243,160) or did not (n = 624,342) implement RML by 2018. Outcome variables were self-reported nicotine use, binge drinking, illicit drug use, and misuse of prescription stimulants, sedatives, and opioids. Other variables included individual and contextual covariates, and institution-reported institutional and community covariates. Publicly available information was used to code state RML status at each survey administration.
Accounting for state differences and time trends, RML was associated with decreased binge drinking prevalence among college students age 21 and older [OR (95% CI) = 0.91 (0.87 − 0.95), p < .0001] and increased sedative misuse among minors [OR (95% CI) = 1.20 (1.09 − 1.32), p = .0003]. RML did not disrupt secular trends in other substance use.
In the context of related research showing national increases in college students’ marijuana use prevalence and relative increases following state RML, we observed decreases in binge drinking and increases in sedative use that both depended on age. Findings support some specificity in RML-related changes in substance use trends and the importance of individual factors.
Tuesday, December 24, 2019
The title of this post is the clever title of this interesting new report from California's Legislative Analyst's Office released last week. (Hat top: Crime & Consequences.) Here is part of the report's "Executive Summary":
Proposition 64 (2016) directed our office to submit a report to the Legislature by January 1, 2020, with recommendations for adjustments to the state’s cannabis tax rate to achieve three goals: (1) undercutting illicit market prices, (2) ensuring sufficient revenues are generated to fund the types of programs designated by the measure, and (3) discouraging youth use. This report responds to this statutory requirement and discusses other potential changes to the state’s cannabis taxes. While this report focuses on cannabis taxes, nontax policy changes also could affect these goals.
Proposition 64 established two state excise taxes on cannabis. The first is a 15 percent retail excise tax, effectively a wholesale tax under current law. The second is a tax based on the weight of harvested plants, often called a cultivation tax. (The measure authorizes the Legislature to amend its tax provisions without voter approval, but the scope of this authorization is unclear.)...
We analyze four types of taxes: basic ad valorem (set as a percentage of price, such as the current retail excise tax), weight-based (such as the current cultivation tax), potency-based (for example, based on tetrahydrocannabinol [THC]), and tiered ad valorem (set as a percentage of price with different rates based on potency and/or product type). Our analysis focuses primarily on three main criteria: (1) effectiveness at reducing harmful use, (2) revenue stability, and (3) ease of administration and compliance. No individual type of tax performs best on all criteria. For example, tiered ad valorem and potency-based likely are best for reducing harmful use, but basic ad valorem is easiest to administer. Given these trade-offs, the Legislature’s choice depends heavily on the relative importance it places on each criterion. That said, the weight-based tax is generally weakest, performing similarly to or worse than the potency-based tax on the three main criteria....
Any tax rate change would help the state meet certain goals while likely making it harder to achieve others. On one hand, for example, reducing the tax rate would expand the legal market and reduce the size of the illicit market. On the other hand, such a tax cut would reduce revenue in the short term, potentially to the extent that revenue could be insufficient. Furthermore, lower tax rates could lead to higher rates of youth cannabis use. With a thriving illicit market, however, much of the cannabis used by youth could avoid taxation. Where possible, this report provides quantitative estimates of the short-term effects of rate changes....
We view reducing harmful use as the most compelling reason to levy an excise tax. Accordingly, we recommend that the Legislature replace the existing retail excise tax and cultivation tax with a potency-based or tiered ad valorem tax, as these taxes could reduce harmful use more effectively. If policymakers value ease of administration and compliance more highly than reducing harmful use, however, the Legislature might prefer to keep the existing retail excise tax. In contrast, we see little reason for the Legislature to retain the weight-based cultivation tax....
If the Legislature decides not to adopt a potency-based or tiered ad valorem cannabis tax, we nevertheless recommend that the Legislature eliminate the cultivation tax. In this case, we recommend that the Legislature set the retail excise tax rate somewhere in the range of 15 percent to 20 percent depending on its policy preferences.
December 24, 2019 in Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Taxation information and issues , Who decides | Permalink | Comments (1)
Tuesday, December 17, 2019
The title of this post is the title of this article by multiple authors forthcoming in the Journal of Addiction Medicine. Here is its abstract:
Objective: Beliefs about marijuana use and prevalence of use may be associated with the legalization status of the state of residence. We examined differences in views and rates of use of marijuana among residents in recreationally legal, medically legal, and nonlegal states.
Methods: We surveyed a nationally representative online panel of US adults (N¼ 16,280) and stratified results by marijuana legalization status of states. We compared views of residents of recreational states on benefits and risks of marijuana use to residents in other states.
Results: The response rate was 56.3% (n ¼ 9003). Residents in recreationally legal states were more likely to believe marijuana could be beneficial for pain management (73% in recreationally legal states, 67% in medically legal states, 63% in nonlegal states; P value: <0.0001), provide relief from stress, anxiety or depression (52% in recreationally legal states, 47% in medically legal states, 46% in nonlegal states; P value: 0.01), and improve appetite (39% in recreationally legal states, 36% in medically legal states, 33% in nonlegal states; P value: <0.009). In addition, residents in recreational states were significantly more likely to believe that smoking 1 marijuana joint a day is somewhat or much safer than smoking 1 cigarette a day (40.8% in recreationally legal states, 39.1% in medically legal states, and 36.1% in nonlegal states; P value: <0.0001). Residents of recreationally and medically legal states were more likely to believe second-hand marijuana smoke was somewhat or much safer than second-hand tobacco smoke (38.3% in recreationally legal states, 38.3% in medically legal states, and 35.7% in nonlegal states; P value: 0.003). Past-year marijuana use in any form (20% in recreational, 14.1% in medical, 12% in nonlegal) and past-year marijuana use of multiple forms (11.1% in recreational, 6.1% in medical, 4.9% in nonlegal) were highest among residents of recreationally legal states. Overall, prevalence of past-year use of any form of marijuana use was more common among residents of recreationally legal states compared with other states (20.3%, confidence interval [CI] 19.5, 21.1 in recreationally legal states; 15.4%, CI 14.7, 16.2 in medically legal states; 11.9%, CI 11.2, 12.6 in nonlegal states).
Conclusions: Residents in recreationally legal states were most likely to believe marijuana has benefits, marijuana smoke is safer than tobacco smoke, and have the highest rate of marijuana use. This is cause for concern, given the tide of commercialization, growing number of high-potency cannabis products, and favorable media coverage promoting use for health problems.