Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform

Editor: Douglas A. Berman
Moritz College of Law

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:

Background

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.

Method

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.

Results

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.

Conclusions

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. 

January 2, 2020 in Recreational Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

"How High? Adjusting California's Cannabis Taxes"

Taxes051816The 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

"Differences in Opinions About Marijuana Use and Prevalence of Use by State Legalization Status"

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.

December 17, 2019 in Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (2)

Saturday, December 7, 2019

Rounding up some recent notable marijuana social science research

Busy times over the last couple weeks has kept me from finding time to blog about a lot of notable recently-published marijuana research.  Making up for the silence, here is a review of the pieces that recently caught my attention:

"Using recreational cannabis to treat insomnia: Evidence from over-the-counter sleep aid sales in Colorado" by authored by Jacqueline Doremus, Sarah Stith and Jacob Vigil published in Complementary Therapies in Medicine

"What Have Been the Public Health Impacts of Cannabis Legalisation in the USA? A Review of Evidence on Adverse and Beneficial Effects" authored by Janni Leung et al. published in Current Addiction Reports

"Are Marijuana and Alcohol Substitutes? Evidence from Neighboring Jurisdictions" authored by Benjamin Hansen as a working paper

"Frequency of cannabis and illicit opioid use among people who use drugs and report chronic pain: A longitudinal analysis" authored by Stephanie Lake et al. published in PLOS Medicine

"Trends in college students’ alcohol, nicotine, prescription opioid and other drug use after recreational marijuana legalization: 2008-2018" authored by Zoe Alley, David Kerr and Harold Bae published in Addictive Behaviors

"Postmaterialism and referenda voting to legalize marijuana" authored by John Frendreis and Raymond Tatalovich published in the International Journal of Drug Policy

"Psychotic disorders hospitalizations associated with cannabis abuse or dependence: A nationwide big data analysis" authored by Manuel Gonçalves‐Pinho, Miguel Bragança and Alberto Freitas published in International Journal of Methods in Psychiatric Research

December 7, 2019 in Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

"The Complicated Relationship Between Marijuana Use and Parenting"

The title of this post is the title of this new paper recently posted to SSRN and authored by Kathryn Foust, a recent graduate The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law.  This paper is the sixteenth paper in an on-going series of student papers supported by the Drug Enforcement and Policy Center.  (The fifteen prior papers in this series are linked below.)    Here is this latest paper's abstract:

The intersection between marijuana and parenting is both highly controversial and largely unexplored.  Despite the trend of legalization (medicinal and recreational) across the country, there is a widening discrepancy between criminal laws and child welfare policies.  Even in states where marijuana is recreationally legal, a parent might still be charged with child abuse or neglect as a result of his or her marijuana use.  Although second-hand marijuana smoke has proven to be a relatively low risk of harm to children, other areas of concern have not been adequately studied, such as the effects of marijuana use during pregnancy and/or breastfeeding.  Despite the lack of reliable scientific studies on the impact of ingestion by children, some initial studies have shown a marked increase in frequency of accidental ingestions and resulting hospital treatment in states that have legalized marijuana.  The palatability and attractiveness of “edibles” is likely the cause of this measurable and dramatic increase. Overall, parental marijuana use has been inadequately studied by science, but some reliable data is available which could be used overhaul existing children’s services policies.

Prior student papers in this series:

November 20, 2019 in Medical community perspectives, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, November 16, 2019

"Exposure to Cannabis Marketing in Social and Traditional Media and Past-Year Use Among Adolescents in States With Legal Retail Cannabis"

The title of this post is the title of this notable new research by multiple authors published in the Journal of Adolescent Health.  Here is its abstract:

Purpose

The objective of this study was to examine adolescents' self-reported exposure to cannabis marketing in states with legalized cannabis and its association with past-year cannabis use.

Methods

We conducted a cross-sectional, online panel survey of 469 adolescents aged 15–19 years residing in four states with legal retail cannabis for adult use.  Adolescents self-reported exposure to cannabis marketing on social or traditional media (i.e., outdoor or print) and past-year cannabis use.  Logistic regression generated estimated odds of youths' past-year cannabis use by marketing exposure after adjusting for demographic factors and cannabis-related social norms.

Results

Exposure to cannabis marketing on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram was associated with increased odds of past-year cannabis use of 96% (95% confidence interval [CI]: 15%–234%), 88% (95% CI: 11%–219%), and 129% (95% CI: 32%–287%), respectively.  Odds of past-year cannabis use increased by 48% (95% CI: 16%–87%) with each additional social media platform where adolescents reported exposure.

Conclusions

Despite restrictions that prohibit cannabis advertising on social media, adolescents are exposed to cannabis marketing via social media, and this exposure is associated with recent cannabis use.  States should consider further regulation of cannabis marketing on social media.

November 16, 2019 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (1)

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

"Association Between Recreational Marijuana Legalization in the United States and Changes in Marijuana Use and Cannabis Use Disorder From 2008 to 2016"

Download (5)The title of this post is the title of this notable new original research by multiple authors published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry. Here is its abstract:

Importance

Little is known about changes in marijuana use and cannabis use disorder (CUD) after recreational marijuana legalization (RML).

Objectives

To examine the associations between RML enactment and changes in marijuana use, frequent use, and CUD in the United States from 2008 to 2016.

Design, Setting, and Participants

This survey study used repeated cross-sectional survey data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (2008-2016) conducted in the United States among participants in the age groups of 12 to 17, 18 to 25, and 26 years or older.

Interventions

Multilevel logistic regression models were fit to obtain estimates of before-vs-after changes in marijuana use among respondents in states enacting RML compared to changes in other states.

Main Outcomes and Measures

Self-reported past-month marijuana use, past-month frequent marijuana use, past-month frequent use among past-month users, past-year CUD, and past-year CUD among past-year users.

Results

The study included 505 ,796 respondents consisting of 51.51% females and 77.24% participants 26 years or older.  Among the total, 65.43% were white, 11.90% black, 15.36% Hispanic, and 7.31% of other race/ethnicity.  Among respondents aged 12 to 17 years, past-year CUD increased from 2.18% to 2.72% after RML enactment, a 25% higher increase than that for the same age group in states that did not enact RML (odds ratio [OR], 1.25; 95% CI, 1.01-1.55).  Among past-year marijuana users in this age group, CUD increased from 22.80% to 27.20% (OR, 1.27; 95% CI, 1.01-1.59).  Unmeasured confounders would need to be more prevalent in RML states and increase the risk of cannabis use by 1.08 to 1.11 times to explain observed results, indicating results that are sensitive to omitted variables.  No associations were found among the respondents aged 18 to 25 years.  Among respondents 26 years or older, past-month marijuana use after RML enactment increased from 5.65% to 7.10% (OR, 1.28; 95% CI, 1.16-1.40), past-month frequent use from 2.13% to 2.62% (OR, 1.24; 95% CI, 1.08-1.41), and past-year CUD from 0.90% to 1.23% (OR, 1.36; 95% CI, 1.08-1.71); these results were more robust to unmeasured confounding.  Among marijuana users in this age group, past-month frequent marijuana use and past-year CUD did not increase after RML enactment.

Conclusions and Relevance

This study’s findings suggest that although marijuana legalization advanced social justice goals, the small post-RML increase in risk for CUD among respondents aged 12 to 17 years and increased frequent use and CUD among adults 26 years or older in this study are a potential public health concern.  To undertake prevention efforts, further studies are warranted to assess how these increases occur and to identify subpopulations that may be especially vulnerable.

November 13, 2019 in Recreational Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, November 10, 2019

"Cannabis use disorder among people using cannabis daily/almost daily in the United States, 2002–2016"

Download (7)The title of this post is the title of this notable new research by multiple authors about to be published in the December 2019 issue of the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence.  Here is the abstract:

Background

Cannabis use disorder (CUD) prevalence among people reporting past-year cannabis use declined from 2002–2016.  We examined whether similar reductions in CUD were observed among people reporting daily/almost daily cannabis use.  We expected that CUD prevalence among people reporting daily/almost daily use would not decrease.

Methods

We used 2002–2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) data, including 22,651 individuals using cannabis 300+ days in the past year.  CUD was defined using DSM-IV criteria for cannabis abuse and/or dependence. Age categories included: 12–17, 18–25, and 26 + .  Annual prevalence of CUD, cannabis dependence, cannabis abuse, and each individual abuse/dependence items accounted for the complex survey design.  Differences in trends over time were examined by age group.

Results

From 2002–2016, the prevalence of CUD among people reporting daily/almost daily cannabis use decreased by 26.8% in adolescents, by 29.7% in ages 18–25, and by 37.5% in ages 26 + .  Prevalence of DSM-IV cannabis dependence decreased significantly among adolescents (-43.9%) and young adults (-26.8%) but remained stable in adults 26 + .  Reductions in most dependence items were observed in young adults, with less consistent patterns in adolescents and adults 26 + .  Prevalence of DSM-IV cannabis abuse decreased overall and for each abuse item across all age groups.

Conclusions

Contrary to expectations, CUD prevalence decreased significantly across all ages reporting daily/almost daily cannabis use between 2002–2016.  Cannabis dependence prevalence decreased for adolescents and young adults and was stable only among adults ages 26+ reporting daily/almost daily cannabis use.  Potential drivers of this decrease should be further explored.

November 10, 2019 in Recreational Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (1)

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)