Report: Adult-Use Legalization Laws Not Associated with Adverse Impacts on Public Health

Washington, DC: The enactment of statewide laws regulating the adult use, production, and retail sale of cannabis is not associated with significant adverse impacts on public health, according to a comprehensive analysis of state-level data by the libertarian-leaning Washington, DC think-tank CATO.

Investigators reported that legalization has not demonstrably impacted young people’s use of cannabis or other substances, nor has it significantly influenced overall trends in traffic safety, violent crime, or suicide rates. 

“Our data showed that state‐​level legalization of marijuana had generally minor effects,” authors concluded. “One notable exception was the increase in state tax revenue from legalized marijuana sales, … which has exceeded some expectations.”

The report updates prior research published by the authors in 2016. That analysis similarly concluded: “[S]tate marijuana legalization [laws] have had minimal effect on marijuana use and related outcomes. The absence of significant adverse consequences is especially striking given the sometimes dire predictions made by legalization opponents.”

Full text of the report, “The Effect of State Marijuana Legalization: 2021 Update,” is available online. Additional information is available from the NORML fact sheet, “Marijuana Regulation: Impact on Health, Safety, Economy.