How High

Differences in the Developments of Cannabis Markets in Two Legalized States

Published in: International Journal of Drug Policy, Volume 75 (January 2020). doi: 10.1016/j.drugpo.2019.102611

by Caislin Firth, Steven Davenport, Rosanna Smart, Julia A. Dilley

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With legal retail cannabis businesses now operational in seven states, market data are valuable for monitoring population consumption patterns. Strong evidence from studies of alcohol and tobacco markets indicate retail outlet access and density, lower prices, and availability of higher-potency products likely contribute to increases in consumption, and potentially associated harms (Berg, Henriksen, Cavazos-Rehg, Haardoerfer & Freisthler, 2018; Community Preventive Services Task Force, 2015, 2017). However, to date, Washington, one of the first two states to legalize adult use and began retail sales of cannabis in July 2014, is the only state that has published trends in cannabis sales, types of products sold, and the potency of products (Smart, Caulkins, Kilmer, Davenport & Midgette, 2017). While this has allowed us to learn a lot about the evolution of the legal cannabis market in Washington, we do not yet know whether Washington's experience translates to other legalized states. This paper is the first to examine cannabis market data from Washington alongside that from the state's southern neighbor, Oregon—two states that are similar in regard to legalizing retail sales of cannabis but differ in terms of their regulatory frameworks (e.g., taxation, product restrictions). Differences in the states' regulations of the production, processing, and sale of cannabis (Drug Policy Alliance, 2018) have implications for the development of their cannabis markets and population health outcomes.

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