To make even wild guesses we will have to look at a few foreign countries plus some econometric simulations. No one will be surprised to hear that the first foreign country involved is the netherlands, which was famously permissive of cannabis up until a crackdown a few years ago. Despite popular belief paper they never fully legalized the drug and they were still pretty harsh on production and manufacture; distribution, on the other hand, could occur semi-openly in coffee shops. This is another case where we have to be careful to distinguish legal regimes from actual effects, but during the period when there were actually a lot of pot-serving coffee shops, the netherlands did experience an otherwise-inexplicable 35 rise in marijuana consumption relative to the. This is true even among teenagers, and covers both heavy use as well as occasional experimentation. Some scientists studying the netherlands example expect Colorado to see a similar rise; others think it will be even larger because the legalization is complete rather than partial. The second foreign country involved is Portugal, which was maybe more of a decriminalization than a legalization case but which is forever linked with the idea of lax drug regimes in the minds of most Americans. They decriminalized all drugs (including heroin and cocaine) in 2001, choosing to replace punishment with increased treatment opportunities, and as we all have been told, no one in Portugal ever used drugs ever again, or even remembers that drugs exist. Except it turns out its more complicated; for example, the percent of Portuguese who admit to lifetime use of drugs has doubled since the law took effect.
Maybe everyone keeps using the same amount of marijuana, but when medical mom marijuana inevitably gets diverted to the street, addicts cant handle it and end up behaving much worse than they expected. Or the studies are wrong. Studies being wrong is always a pretty good bet. I cant close this section without mentioning the colorado expulsion controversy. Nearly everyone who teaches in Colorado says there has been an explosion of marijuana-related problems since medical marijuana was legalized. Meanwhile, the actual surveys of Colorado high school students say that marijuana use, if anything, is going down. A colorado drug warrior has some strong objections to the survey results, but they center around not really being able to prove that there is a real downward trend (which is an entirely correct complaint) without denying that in fact they show no evidence. The consensus on medical marijuana seems to be that it does not increase teen marijuana use either, although there is some murky and suggestive evidence that it might increase illicit or dangerous marijuana use among adults. There is less information on the effects of full legalization of marijuana, which has never been tried before in the United States.
Indeed, for about ten years after medical marijuana legalization, the federal government kept on prosecuting marijuana users even when their use accorded with state laws, and many states had so few dispensaries that in reality not a whole lot of medical marijuana was being given. I havent found any great studies that purport to overcome these problems. When we examined decriminalization, we found that the studies based on surveys of teens looked pretty good, but that the one study that examined outcomes marijuana-related er visits was a lot less encouraging. We find the same pattern here, and the rain on our parade is Chu 2013, who finds that medical marijuana laws increased marijuana-related arrests by 15-20 and marijuana-related drug rehab admissions by 10-15. So whats going on here? I have two theories. First, maybe medical marijuana use (and decriminalization) increase use among adults only. This could be because the system is working giving adults access to medical marijuana while keeping it out of the hands of children or because kids are dumb and dont understand consequences but adults are more responsive to incentives and punishments. Second, we know that medical marijuana has twice as much thc as street marijuana.
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This is sufficiently different from every other study that I dont give it much weight, although well return to it later. Overall I think the future evidence is pretty strong that decriminalization probably led to no increase in marijuana use among teens, and may at most have led to a small business single-digit increase. Proponents of stricter marijuana penalties say the experiment isnt fair. In practice, decriminalization does not affect the average user very much even in states without decriminalization, marijuana possession very rarely leads to jail time. The only hard number I have is from Australia, where in non-decriminalized Australian states only.3 of marijuana arrests lead to jail time, but a quick back-of-the-envelope calculation suggests us numbers are very similar.
And even in supposedly decriminalized states, its not hard for a cop who wants to get a pot user in jail to find a way (possession of even small amounts can be possession with intent to sell if someone doesnt like you). So the overall real difference between decriminalized and not decriminalized is small and its not surprising the results are small as well. I mostly agree with them; decriminalization is fine as far as it goes, but its a bigger psychological step than an actual one. The next major milestone in cannabis history was the legalization of medical marijuana. Anderson, hansen rees (2012) did the same kind of study we have seen above, and despite trying multiple different measures of youth marijuana use found pretty much no evidence that medical marijuana legalization caused it to increase. Other studies find pretty much the same. This could potentially suffer from the same problems as decriminalization studies the laws dont always change the facts on the ground.
For example, 28 of Californians used marijuana before it was decriminalized in the 70s, compared to 35 a few years after. This falls victim to a different confounder marijuana use has undergone some very large swings nationwide, so the rate of increase in medical marijuana states may be the same as the rate anywhere else. Indeed, this is what was going on in California its marijuana use actually rose slightly less than the national average. What we want is a study that compares the average marijuana use in a set of states before liberalization to the average marijuana use in the country as a whole, and then does the same after liberalization to see if the ratio has increased. There are several studies that purport to try this, of which by far the best.
Johnston, omalley bachman 1981, which monitored the effect of the decriminalization campaigns of the 70s. They survey thousand of high school seniors on marijuana use in seven states that decriminalize marijuana both before and for five years after the decriminalization, and find absolutely no sign of increased marijuana use (in fact, there is a negative trend). Several other studies (eg. Thies register 1993 ) confirm this finding. There is only a hint of some different results. Saffer and Chaloukpa 1999 and, chaloupka, grossman tauras 1999 try to use complicated econometric simulations to estimate the way marijuana demand will respond to different variables. They simulate (as opposed to detecting in real evidence) that marijuana decriminalization should raise past-year use by about 5 8, but have no effect on more frequent use (ie a few more people try it but do not become regular users). More impressively, model 1993 (a source of some exasperation for me earlier) finds that after decriminalization, marijuana-related emergency room visits went up (trying to interpret their tables, i think they went up by a whopping 90, but Im not sure of this).
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Reverse causal Arrows could it not be that states with more william marijuana users are more likely to pass proposals liberalizing marijuana laws? Even more likely, some third variable lets call it hippie attitudes could be behind both high rates of marijuana use and support for liberal marijuana regimes. The states involved are places like colorado, california, washington, and Oregon. I think that speaks for itself. In case it doesnt, someone went through the statistics and found that these states had the highest rates of marijuana use among teens since well before they relaxed drug-related punishments. A slightly more sophisticated version used by the dea here takes the teenage marijuana use in a state one year before legalization of medical marijuana and compares it to the teenage marijuana use in a state one (or several years) after such legalization. They often find that it has increased, and blame the increase on the new laws.
Starting in the 1990s, several states legalized medical marijuana. People with medical marijuana cards, which in many cases were laughably easy to get with or without good evidence of disease, were allowed to grow and use marijuana, despite concerns that some of this would end up on the illegal market. Starting last week, colorado legalized recreational use of marijuana, as well as cultivation and sale (subject to heavy regulations). Washington will follow later this year, and other states will be placing manners measures on their ballots to do the same. One should be able to evaluate to what degree marijuana use rose after these policy changes, and indeed, many people have tried with greater or lesser levels of statistical sophistication. The worst arguments in favor of this proposition are those like this cadca paper, which note that states with more liberal marijuana laws have higher rates of marijuana use among teenagers than states that do not. The proper counterspell to such nonsense.
an Obama-loving long-haired hippie who nevertheless vehemently opposes medical marijuana or any relaxation on marijuanas status at all. He says that just because Im a democrat doesnt mean I have to support stupid policies i know are wrong and hes able to back up his opinion with an impressive variety of studies. To be honest, i had kind of forgotten that the Universe was allowed to contain negative consequences for legalizing drugs. What with all the mental energy it took protesting the the Drug War and getting outraged at police brutality and celebrating Colorados recently permitting recreational cannabis use and so on, it had completely slipped my mind that the legalization of marijuana might have negative consequences. So ive been doing the research. Not to try to convince my attending of anything as the old saying goes, do not meddle in the affairs of attendings, because you are crunchy and taste good with ketchup but just to figure out where exactly things stand. Would Relaxation Of Penalties On Marijuana Increase marijuana Use? Starting in the 1970s, several states decriminalized possession of marijuana that is, possession could not be penalized by jail time. It could still be penalized by fines and other smaller penalties, and manufacture and sale could still be punished by jail time.
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