Drug Policy Research Center Hot Topic: Marijuana Legalization
The RAND Drug Policy Research Center is a non-partisan research center dedicated to providing objective analysis and research to decisionmakers. We do not have an official policy position on marijuana reform and more generally RAND does not advocate for or against legislation at any level of government.
But for more than 20 years, RAND researchers have published articles and studies that will be useful for those making decisions about marijuana policy. Here we summarize some of these studies and provide links to the publications (some journal articles may require subscription). This is not an exhaustive list of RAND's marijuana-related publications and we encourage readers to visit http://dprc.rand.org for more information.
Except for the books and titles marked with an asterisk (*), all of these articles are published in peer-reviewed journals.
Marijuana Legalization: What Everyone Needs to Know
A crisp, clear, and comprehensive non-partisan primer, this book covers the risks and benefits of use, current laws, and the personal impacts of legalization. The authors discuss the likely costs and benefits of legalization as well as possible policy options.
Cannabis Use and Dependence: Public Health and Public Policy
Exploring the relationship between health policy, public health and the law regarding the controversial use of cannabis, this study assesses the impact of illegality in drug use and compares it with the policies of the U.S., Europe and Australia as well as other developed societies. Current debates about "safe use" and "harm minimization" approaches are evaluated, as well as the experiences of differing prevention, treatment and education policies. Written by two leading drug advisors, the analysis contributes to an important field of research.
Drug War Heresies: Learning from Other Vices, Times, and Places
This book provides the first multidisciplinary and nonpartisan analysis of how the United States should decide on the legal status of cocaine, heroin, and marijuana. It draws on data about the experiences of Western European nations with less punitive drug policies as well as new analyses of America's experience with legal cocaine and heroin a century ago, and of America's efforts to regulate gambling, prostitution, alcohol, and cigarettes. It offers projections on the likely consequences of different legalization regimes and shows that the choice about how to regulate drugs involves complicated tradeoffs among goals and conflict among social groups.
Design Considerations for Legalizing Cannabis: Lessons Inspired by Analysis of California's Proposition 19
How legalizing marijuana would affect consumption and tax revenues will depend on many design choices including tax level, incentives for a continued black market, whether advertising is restricted, and how the regulatory system is designed and adjusted.
*Altered State? Assessing How Marijuana Legalization in California Could Influence Marijuana Consumption and Public Budgets
Legalizing the production, distribution, and possession of marijuana in California would lead to a substantial decline in price. The price reduction and nonprice effects of legalization would increase consumption, but it is unclear by how much.
*Reducing Drug Trafficking Revenues and Violence in Mexico: Would Legalizing Marijuana in California Help?
The claim that 60 percent of Mexican drug traffickers’ gross drug export revenues comes from marijuana should not be taken seriously.
*Insights on the Effects of Marijuana Legalization on Prices and Consumption
Testimony presented before the California State Assembly Public Safety Committee and California State Senate Public Safety Committee on September 21, 2010.
*Legalizing Marijuana: Issues to Consider Before Reforming California State Law
In her testimony presented before the California State Assembly Public Safety Committee on October 28, 2009, Rosalie Pacula explains the importance of considering a full cost-benefit analysis before undertaking large reforms like marijuana legalization.
Do Citizens Know Whether Their State has Decriminalized Marijuana?
National survey data indicates that citizens believe they can be jailed for marijuana possession, regardless of whether or not their state has already removed such penalties.
State Medical Marijuana Laws: Understanding the Laws and Their Limitations
Significant attention has been given to the debate regarding allowances for medical marijuana use since the 1996 California and Arizona ballot initiatives. State medical marijuana allowances, however, have existed since the mid-1970s. Much of the current debate stems from confusion about the various ways states approach the issue. In this paper, the authors present original legal research on current state medical marijuana laws identifying four different ways states statutorily enable the medical use of marijuana.
Interpreting Dutch Cannabis Policy: Reasoning by Analogy in the Legalization Debate
The Dutch depenalization and subsequent de facto legalization of cannabis since 1976 is used here to highlight the strengths and limitations of reasoning by analogy as a guide for projecting the effects of relaxing drug prohibitions. While the Dutch case and other analogies have flaws, they appear to converge in suggesting that reductions in criminal penalties have limited effects on drug use—at least for marijuana—but that commercial access is associated with growth in the drug-using population.
Bringing Perspective to Illicit Markets: Estimating the Size of the U.S. Marijuana Market
The paper generates a demand-side estimate of U.S. marijuana consumption and shows how variation in assumptions such as grams per joint and extent of underreporting can cause substantial variation in estimates of market size.
Risks and Prices: The Role of User Sanctions in Marijuana Markets
The paper suggests that lower legal risks for marijuana users are associated with higher marijuana prices in the short-run, which ceteris paribus, implies an upward sloping supply curve, higher consumption, and higher profits for drug dealers. The findings have important implications for the current policy debates regarding decriminalization of marijuana.
Marijuana Markets: Inferences from Reports by the Household Population
This paper provides a description of marijuana market and acquisition patterns as reported by participants in the 2001 National Household Survey on Drug Abuse. We find that most respondents obtain marijuana indoors (87%), from a friend or relative (89%), and for free (58%).
*Estimating the Size of the Global Drug Market: A Demand-Side Approach
Global retail expenditures on cannabis range from €40B-€120B. Our best estimate is close to half of the previous global estimate of approximately €125B.
*Marijuana and Youth
The authors present the first set of estimates of the price elasticity of demand for the prevalence of marijuana use by high school seniors. They report a conservative lower-bound estimate of -0.30. The authors' findings imply that changes in the real, quality-adjusted price of marijuana contributed significantly to the trends in youth marijuana use between 1982 and 1998, particularly during the reduction in use noted from 1982 to 1992.
Racial Differences in Marijuana-Users' Risk of Arrest in the United States
A recent study of arrest data show that African Americans are 2.5 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession offences than Whites, even though general prevalence estimates show that they are no more likely to be using. Analyses reveal that African Americans are nearly twice as likely to buy outdoors, three times more likely to buy from a stranger, and significantly more likely to buy away from their homes. These results provide an additional explanation for the differential in arrest rates between African Americans and Whites.
*Just Cause or Just Because? Prosecution and Plea-Bargaining Resulting in Prison Sentences on Low-Level Drug Charges in California and Arizona
In our samples, the low-level drug offenders in prison are often much more serious offenders than the "low-level" label implies. Indeed, imprisoned low-level drug offenders tend to have criminal histories reflecting their involvement in a variety of criminal offenses, cases involving large quantities of drugs, or both.
Reassessing the Marijuana Gateway Effect
Marijuana gateway effects may exist. However, the authors results demonstrate that the phenomena used to motivate belief in such an effect are consistent with an alternative simple, plausible common-factor model. No gateway effect is required to explain them. The common-factor model has implications for evaluating marijuana control policies that differ significantly from those supported by the gateway model.
Marijuana Use from Adolescence to Young Adulthood
This study used latent growth mixture modeling to identify discrete developmental patterns of marijuana use from early adolescence (age 13) to young adulthood (age 23) among a sample of 5,833 individuals. Analyses of covariance comparing the trajectory groups on behavioral, socioeconomic, and health outcomes at age 29 revealed that abstainers consistently had the most favorable outcomes, whereas early high users consistently had the least favorable outcomes.
Marijuana Use and Depression Among Adults
After adjusting for differences in baseline risk factors of marijuana use and depression, past-year marijuana use does not significantly predict later development of depression.
The Incremental Inpatient Costs Associated with Marijuana Comorbidity
In this paper the authors examine the incremental cost of marijuana comorbidity for alcohol, mood and thought diagnoses in hospital settings. Findings from this study suggest that a marijuana comorbidity increases the cost of treating patients with alcohol problems and mood disorder diagnoses, implying that there may be real health consequences associated with marijuana abuse and dependence and more work considering this possibility is warranted.
The Relationship Between High School Marijuana Use And Annual Earnings Among Young Adult Males
This article uses a unique panel data set to examine the relationship between high school marijuana use and annual earnings at age 29. The analysis finds that part of the negative relationship reflects an indirect pathway whereby early marijuana use affects human capital accumulation, which in turn affects earnings. Moreover, the authors find evidence that the remaining association between early marijuana use and earnings, after controlling for differences in human capital, reflects the cumulative effect of marijuana use on cognitive ability and motivation.
Marijuana Use and High School Dropout: The Influence of Unobservables
The association between marijuana use and high school dropout status is unlikely to be due to its adverse effects on cognition, but instead involves parental and peer influences.
New Inroads in Preventing Adolescent Drug Use: Results From a Large-Scale Trial of Project ALERT in Middle Schools
We evaluated the revised Project ALERT drug prevention program across a wide variety of Midwestern schools and communities. The revised Project ALERT curriculum curbed cigarette and marijuana use initiation, current and regular cigarette use, and alcohol misuse. Reductions ranged from 19% to 39%. Program effects were not significant for initial and current drinking or for current and regular marijuana use.
Pilot Test of Project CHOICE: A Voluntary Afterschool Intervention for Middle School Youth
The current study reports findings from a pilot evaluation of a voluntary alcohol and marijuana intervention for young teens. Random-effects growth models indicated that self use and perceptions of friends' use of alcohol and marijuana increased more sharply among control school students relative to students from the PC school regardless of participation. Results suggest that a brief voluntary intervention attended by a small proportion of students can impact both individual and schoolwide substance-related outcomes.
Project ALERT Plus May Leverage the Effect of the National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign
Marijuana use in the past month was significantly less likely among ALERT Plus students reporting at least weekly exposure to anti-drug media messages. The National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign may have led to reductions in marijuana use among youth who simultaneously received school-based drug prevention.