Marijuana Regulation: Impact on Health, Safety, Economy
The enactment of adult use cannabis regulation is not associated with upticks in marijuana use by adolescents
"With legalization of retail marijuana in Colorado, and the opening of dispensaries in January 2014, two key questions were how legalization would impact marijuana use and whether there would be an increase in adverse health events. Legalization did not noticeably impact marijuana use rates among adolescents or young adults. Past-30-day use among adolescents remained steady for more than ten years, pre- and post-legalization."
"According to the 2017 data [provided by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's High School Youth Risk Behavior Survey,] the most recent available, 19.6 percent of Colorado high school students currently use marijuana -- a couple of ticks below the national average of 19.8 percent. Moreover, the latest Colorado numbers are well below the 21.2 percent registered in 2015, the year after recreational sales went into effect, and 22 percent circa the pre-legalization year of 2011. As for lifetime use of marijuana among Colorado high-schoolers, it fell to 35.5 percent, a little under the 35.6 percent national average. The Colorado figures from 2015 and 2011 were 38 percent and 39.5 percent, respectively."
"Certainly the worst things that we had great fear about (the legalization of marijuana for adults in Colorado) – spikes in consumption, kids, people driving while high – we haven't seen any of that. We saw a little increase in teenagers and that came down within a couple years. ... We were very worried that by legalizing, we were making this more somehow more psychologically available to kids. We haven't seen that. If anything, we've seen less drug dealers."
"I think the concern was that by legalizing marijuana, we should certainly see an increase in adult use, and maybe that would leak into our youth. [There was also a concern that] youth would somehow gain greater access, and/or feel entitled to go ahead and use in greater numbers. We just haven't seen that pan out. ... It appears that teenagers make decisions to consume marijuana for reasons other than legalization—like they do with other risk behaviors."
"[T]he presence of recreational marijuana retail stores was not associated with perceived easy access to marijuana, controlling for perceived ease of access before the retail sales. There was no significant change in past 30-day marijuana use in bivariate analysis or in a multivariate model including presence of a recreational marijuana store."
"For adults and adolescents [in Colorado], past-month marijuana use has not changed since legalization either in terms of the number of people using or the frequency of use among users. Based on the most comprehensive data available, past month marijuana use among Colorado adolescents is nearly identical to the national average."
[M]arijuana use, both among adults and among youth [in Colorado], does not appear to be increasing to date. No change was observed in past 30-day marijuana use among adults between 2014 (13.6 percent) and 2015 (13.4 percent). Similarly, there was no statistically significant change in 30-day or lifetime marijuana use among high school students between 2013 (lifetime: 36.9 percent, 30-day: 19.7 percent) and 2015 (lifetime: 38.0 percent, 30-day: 21.2 percent)."
"We can state with some confidence that, even in states that have enacted marijuana liberalization policies, marijuana use among adolescents is not currently increasing. In fact, there is rather compelling evidence that adolescent marijuana use has steadily declined."
"Despite concerns that legalization of marijuana for recreational use by adults in 2012 may also increase teens' ability to access to marijuana [in Washington], preliminary analyses of state-wide HYS (Healthy Youth Survey) data suggest otherwise."
The establishment of cannabis retailers is not associated with upticks in criminal activity
"Using 2010 to 2015 Uniform Crime Reports data, the research undertakes interrupted time-series analysis on the offenses known to be cleared by arrest to create monthly counts of violent and property crime clearance rate as well as disaggregated counts by crime type. Findings suggest no negative effects of legalization on crime clearance rates. Moreover, evidence suggests some crime clearance rates have improved. Our findings suggest legalization has resulted in improvements in some clearance rates."
"[W]e find no support for the idea that closing dispensaries reduces crime. Rather, temporary closures deter some types of Part I (serious) crime. ... "An open dispensary provides over $30,000 per year in social benefit in terms of larcenies prevented."
"There were no observed cross-sectional associations between the density of medical marijuana dispensaries and either violent or property crime rates in this study. These results suggest that the density of medical marijuana dispensaries may not be associated with crime rates or that other factors, such as measures dispensaries take to reduce crime (i.e., doormen, video cameras), may increase guardianship such that it deters possible motivated offenders."
Neither medical use nor adult use legalization is associated with adverse effects on traffic safety
"We find that states that legalized marijuana have not experienced significantly different rates of marijuana- or alcohol-related traffic fatalities relative to their synthetic controls. ... In summary, the similar trajectory of traffic fatalities in Washington and Colorado relative to their synthetic control counterparts yield little evidence that the total rate of traffic fatalities has increased significantly as a consequence of recreational marijuana legalization."
"[T]he results of this study indicate that medical marijuana laws in general have null effects on the prevalence of cannabis-positive driving. The key exception is for MML (medical marijuana law) states that regulate the sale of cannabis though dispensaries, a policy framework that was shown to increase the probability of cannabis-positive driving by .011–.014, depending on the counterfactual policy. However, as noted above, this is a relatively small effect, representing an additional 87–113 cannabis-positive drivers in 2014 who were involved in fatal vehicle accidents who might not otherwise have been."
"We (the state of Colorado) have not experienced any significant issue as a result of legalization. ... We have actually seen an overall decrease in DUI's since legalization. So, the short answer is: There has been no increase since the legalization of marijuana here."
"We found no significant association between recreational marijuana legalization in Washington and Colorado and subsequent changes in motor vehicle crash fatality rates in the first three years after recreational marijuana legalization. ... [W]e also found no association between recreational marijuana legalization and total crash rates when analyzing available state-reported nonfatal crash statistics. ... Post–recreational marijuana legalization changes in motor vehicle crash fatality rates for Washington and Colorado also did not significantly differ from those for the control states."
"In monitoring the impacts of recreational marijuana legalization in Washington State, government researchers report that there was no trend identified in the percentage of drivers testing positive for marijuana (either marijuana only or marijuana in combination with other drugs/alcohol) for those involved in traffic fatalities and who were tested for drugs or alcohol.
"[O]n average, medical marijuana law states had lower traffic fatality rates than non-MML states. .... Medical marijuana laws are associated with reductions in traffic fatalities, particularly pronounced among those aged 25 to 44 years. ... It is possible that this is related to lower alcohol-impaired driving behavior in MML-states."
Reducing criminal penalties for marijuana offenses is associated with increased probability of employment, particularly for young males, and an average increase of 4.5 percent in weekly earnings. "This data provides suggestive evidence that marijuana decriminalization laws improve extrinsic labor market outcomes. ... This result is consistent with existing literature that suggests black adults, especially men, stand to benefit the most from removing these penalties."
Among those over the age of 50, the enactment of medical cannabis laws was associated with a "9.4 percent increase in the probability of employment and a 4.6 percent to 4.9 percent increase in hours worked per week. ... Medical marijuana law implementation leads to increases in labor supply among older adult men and women."
Marijuana regulation is associated with declining alcohol consumption
"We use data on purchases of alcoholic beverages in grocery, convenience, drug, or mass distribution stores in US counties for 2006-2015 to study the link between medical marijuana laws and alcohol consumption and focus on settling the debate between the substitutability or complementarity between marijuana and alcohol. ... We find that the legalization of medical marijuana reduces alcohol consumption. We find consistent evidence across different specifications and alcohol products (i.e. alcohol in general, beer and wine). States legalizing medical marijuana use experience significant decrease in the aggregate sales of alcohol, beer and wine. Moreover, the effects are not short lived, with significant reductions observed up to 24 months after the passage of the law."
"Research firm Cowen & Company analyzed the state of the beer industry in Colorado, Oregon and Washington—states where both recreational weed is legal and craft beer has become popular. In those states, beer markets have "collectively underperformed" over the last two years, trailing behind beer sales around the country."
Marijuana regulation is associated with increased tax revenue and job creation
"Here's a striking figure for the nascent cannabis industry that only recently began to operate legitimately: It supports 125,000-160,000 full-time jobs in the U.S. To put that in perspective, the marijuana industry now supports approximately the same numbers of full-time workers as there are librarians and kindergarten teachers in the country – and roughly three times the number of employees in the U.S. coal industry. Over the next five years, the number of full-time marijuana workers is expected to more than double as large markets including California ramp up and new states come online."
"According to ZipRecruiter data, the total number of industry job posts increased by 445% in 2017. ... Our data also shows that the cannabis industry is growing more rapidly than some of today’s fastest-growing fields. Year over year growth of job posts in the cannabis industry is outpacing both tech (254% growth) and healthcare (70% growth). ... Not only does the legalization of cannabis create a safer and more stable market for medical and recreational users, but it also significantly drives job growth."
"As the first state to open recreational marijuana retail stores, Colorado provides a case study to examine the potential economic effects from legalization. Direct employment in the marijuana sector has risen robustly since the passage of Amendment 64, contributing about 5.4 percent of all employment growth in Colorado since January 2014. ... Similar to employment, tax collections from marijuana have also increased sharply in recent years, and are equal to about 2 percent of general fund revenues in the state."
"A half-year of legal cannabis is in Nevada's books and recreational sales exceeded an average of $1 million per day through the first six months. … the industry generated $30,376,795 in tax revenue for the state through the first six months. So far the state has reported $10.8 million through the wholesale tax and $19.5 million through retail tax."
"Cannabis sales in Washington state continue to grow at a steady rate, with total 2017 sales topping $1.1 billion at the end of September. ... According to data released by the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board, over the past five months the state's cannabis industry has broken a number of its own sales records, with monthly sales now exceeding $130 million."
"Nevada's recreational marijuana industry hit a new high, selling more than $37.9 million in October (2017). The state has earned nearly $20 million in marijuana tax revenue since the adult-use market launched in July."
"Nevada dispensaries sold more than $33 million in recreational marijuana and the state pulled in nearly $5 million in total taxes in August (2017), according to numbers released by the Nevada Department of Taxation. ... The recreational sales numbers were significantly ahead of the state's projected $21.5 million in sales for August. In fact, the state did not project any month in the first year of recreational sales to eclipse $28 million."
"In this paper we contribute to the debate on the impacts of recreational marijuana legalization on local communities by examining the effects of retail marijuana stores on nearby house prices in Denver, Colorado. ... Using a difference-in-differences model, we compare houses that are in close proximity to a retail conversion to those that are slightly farther away from a retail conversion before and after the legalization of recreational sales. We find that after the law went into effect at the end of 2013, single family residences close to a retail conversion (within 0.1 miles) increased in value by approximately 8.4% relative to houses that are located slightly farther from a conversion (between 0.1 miles and 0.25 miles) in 2014 compared to the previous year."
"Does legalizing retail marijuana generate more benefits than costs? This paper addresses this question by measuring the benefits and costs that are capitalized into housing values. We exploit the time-series and cross-sectional variations in the adoption of Colorado's municipality retail marijuana laws (RMLs) and examine the effect on housing values with a difference-in-differences strategy. Our estimates show that the legalization leads to an average 6 percent increase in housing values, indicating that the capitalized benefits outweigh the costs. ... In conclusion, this paper provides convincing causal evidence that legalizing retail marijuana generates net benefits, as measured through the housing market."