Effects of cannabis legalization

I’ve started to create a presentation on the observed effects, on various metrics, of adult-use cannabis legalization in the first US states to legalize. The resources listed below are proving to be particularly helpful, so I thought that I would share them.

If you have any other recent published sources of data & analysis that you would recommend, I’d welcome links. I’m looking for the hardest possible data from sources that are most credible to goverment bureaucrats, BTW. Not “opinions.” Similarly, if you have data-based criticisms of the following source, please don’t hesitate to share those with me.

I’ve also included some links to recent medical meta-studies, because I know I’ll be asked by those to whom I am giving the presentation, so I want to be prepared with answers and references.

The Economic Effects of the Marijuana Industry in Colorado (Kanas City Federal Reserve, April 2018): It is hard to imagine a source that is more credible, to a bureacratic audience, than a publication from the US Federal Reserve. Conclusion: “Direct employment in the marijuana sector has risen robustly since [legalization], contributing about 5.4 percent of all employment growth in Colorado since January 2014. Despite these solid gains, employment in the sector makes up just 0.7 percent of total employment in the state. 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. Although legalization has contributed to employment growth and tax revenues in the state, it is important to weigh those benefits against the potential costs to public safety and health outcomes.” Which begs the question: What has been the effect of legalization on “public safety and health outcomes” in Colorado?

Marijuana use trends and health effects (Colorado Department of Health, 2017): A mixed bag of results. Nothing wonderful, nothing terrible. Note that (1) this report starts from a “Drugs are bad, kids, OK?” perspective, and (2) it looks exclusively at the direct effects of marijuana use, so it does not (for example) discuss the correlated decline in opiate deaths.

The Marijuana Effect on Economy and Crime: Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Alaska, California (Martin, 2017): Good summary that integrates the findings of two other papers below (Cato Institute, 2016 & Marijuana Policy Project, 2016) with other information available at the end of 2017. If you only read one paper, read this one, not because it is great, but because it is short and summarizes other work well.

Five years in: The effects of legalization in Colorado and Washington state (Johnstone, 2017): Takes a MythBusters approach, comparing pre-legalization claims to “what the data shows” five years after legalization. Good short paper.

The Budgetary Effects of Ending Drug Prohibition (Cato Institute, 2018): Very recent (and brief) study of the economic impact of cannabis legalization on government budgets. Key findings: “All told, drug legalization could generate up to $106.7 billion in annual budgetary gains for federal, state, and local governments [in the USA]. Those gains would come from two primary sources: decreases in drug enforcement spending and increases in tax revenue. This bulletin estimates that state and local governments spend $29 billion on drug prohibition annually, while the federal government spends an additional $18 billion. Meanwhile, full drug legalization would yield $19 billion in state and local tax revenue and $39 billion in federal tax revenue.” This projected windfall — $106.7 billion — is approximately equal to the amount spent in 2017 by the US federal government on Veterans’ Affairs and Science, so, it’s “real money.”

Pueblo Pilot Study Disputes Stereotypes About Marijuana Use, Crime And Homelessness (Lewis, 2018): Good summary of an academic paper (McGettigan, 2018) that studies the impact of legalization on a single local jurisdiction that encompasses many cannabis-growing operations (Pueblo, Colorado). Finds that, in brief, the upside has been considerable, and the downside has been overstated (and has other causes, not related to cannabis legalization).

The Health Effects of Cannabis and Cannabinoids: The Current State of Evidence and Recommendations for Research (National Academies of Science, 2017): The best, most detailed, and most credible summary I have found on the state of the medical research literature on cannabis. Should be read with the following Guide.

A Guide to the National Academy of Science Report on Cannabis: An Exclusive Discussion with Panel Members (National Academy of Sciences, 2017): Invaluable insights into the process by which the above report was developed, and the caveats which should be considered regarding its conclusions (and non-conclusions).

Cannabidiol (CBD) Critical Review Report (World Health Organization Expert Committee on Drug Dependence, 2018): “In humans, CBD exhibits no effects indicative of any abuse or dependence potential. CBD has been demonstrated as an effective treatment of epilepsy in several clinical trials, with one pure CBD product (Epidiolex®) with completed Phase III trials and under current review for approval in the U.S. There is also preliminary evidence that CBD may be a useful treatment for a number of other medical conditions. There is unsanctioned medical use of CBD based products with oils, supplements, gums, and high concentration extracts available online for the treatment of many ailments. CBD is generally well tolerated with a good safety profile. Reported adverse effects may be as a result of drug-drug interactions between CBD and patients’ existing medications. Several countries have modified their national controls to accommodate CBD as a medicinal product. To date, there is no evidence of recreational use of CBD or any public health-related problems associated with the use of pure CBD.”

I will be adding more sources to this list as I find them, particularly adding references to job growth, the pay related to those jobs, and the training required for those jobs.



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