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.

Commentary

  • U.S. Needs to Improve Community-Based Drug, Alcohol Prevention

    Jan 28, 2014

    As familiar as Americans are with the problems of youth drug and alcohol abuse, we are not identifying all the potential solutions. While observers criticize overemphasis in U.S. policy on enforcement and scant resources devoted to treatment, the focus on these approaches often ignores a key piece of the puzzle: prevention.

  • The Feds' Role After Legalization

    Jan 14, 2014

    Since Colorado and Washington allow profit-maximizing firms to grow and sell marijuana, there is concern they will use advertising to promote consumption by heavy users. With help from the federal government, the states will be better positioned to head off the negative consequences associated with commercialization.

  • Has U.S. Gone Further Than Netherlands Over Marijuana?

    Oct 18, 2013

    Colorado and Washington will remove the prohibition on commercial marijuana production and distribution for nonmedical purposes and start regulating and taxing it. Not even the Netherlands goes that far, writes Beau Kilmer.

  • Legalization in the U.S. and Crime in Mexico

    May 22, 2013

    Driving Mexican marijuana out of the U.S. would probably reduce the traffickers' export revenue by a few billion dollars a year, writes Beau Kilmer. But would reducing that revenue lead to a corresponding decrease in trafficker violence?

Books

  • Marijuana Legalization: What Everyone Needs to Know

    Jun 20, 2012

    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

    Jan 1, 2003

    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. Written by two leading drug advisors, the analysis contributes to an important field of research.

  • Extending Terrorism Insurance Program Could Save Federal Government Money After Future Attacks

    Apr 10, 2014

    The Terrorism Risk Insurance Act will expire at the end of this year and Congress is considering the appropriate government role in terrorism insurance markets. In a terrorist attack with losses up to $50 billion, the federal government would spend more helping to cover losses than if it had continued to support a national terrorism risk insurance program.

Policy & Law

Markets & Prices

Criminal Justice

  • 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.

Outcomes

  • Examining Marijuana Use Over the Life Course

    Drug use studies typically focus on young people or problematic users (arrestees or those in treatment), however, neither approach captures the full scope of the issue over time. However, a new model can synthesize both sorts of data and may help evaluate policies aimed at reducing marijuana use over the life course.

  • 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.

  • Marijuana Use from Adolescence to Young Adulthood

    his 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.

  • 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.

Prevention & Interventions