Marijuana Policies and Policy Reform

Related Chapters:
Marijuana
Medical Marijuana

1. States That Legally Regulate Medical and/or Adult Social Use of Marijuana

As of June 25, 2019, a total of 32 states plus the District of Columbia and Guam have what are called "effective" state medical marijuana laws. These states include: Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont, Washington state, and West Virginia.

As of June 25, 2019, eleven states have legalized adult (aged 21 and older) personal use of marijuana: Alaska, California, Colorado, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington state. In addition, ten of those eleven states - Vermont is the exception - legally regulate the production, distribution, and sale of marijuana. The District of Columbia has also legalized limited personal possession and cultivation of marijuana by adults aged 21 and older.

Marijuana Policy Project, "State by State Medical Marijuana Laws 2015 with a December 2016 Supplement - How to Remove the Threat of Arrest," (Washington, DC: MPP, February 2017), p. 1, last accessed September 27, 2017.
https://www.mpp.org...
West Virginia: https://www.mpp.org/states/wes...
Vermont: "Governor Phil Scott Signs H.511," Office of the Governor of Vermont, News Release, Jan. 22, 2018.
http://governor.vermont.gov/pr...
"An act relating to eliminating penalties for possession of limited amounts of marijuana by adults 21 years of age or older"
https://legislature.vermont.go...
Oklahoma: Oklahoma State Question 788, Medical Marijuana Legalization Initiative (June 2018) https://ballotpedia.org/...
Michigan, Missouri, and Utah: http://www.drugpolicy.org/pres...
Illinois: HB 1438

2. Washington State Data On Marijuana Use Following Enactment of I-502

"In these initial investigations, we found no evidence that I-502 enactment, on the whole, affected cannabis abuse treatment admissions. Further, within Washington State, we found no evidence that the amount of legal cannabis sales affected cannabis abuse treatment admissions.

"The bulk of outcome analyses in this report used the within-state approach to focus on identifying effects of the amount of legal cannabis sales. We found no evidence that the amount of legal cannabis sales affected youth substance use or attitudes about cannabis or drug-related criminal convictions.

"We did find evidence that higher levels of retail cannabis sales affected adult cannabis use in certain subgroups of the population. BRFSS respondents 21 and older who lived in counties with higher levels of retail cannabis sales were more likely to report using cannabis in the past 30 days and heavy use of cannabis in the past 30 days.

"We also found two effects that are difficult to interpret. Among the portion of the population aged 18 to 21, BRFSS respondents living in counties with higher sales were less likely to report using cannabis in the past 30 days, in some analyses. It may be that legal cannabis sales have made cannabis more difficult to access by persons below the legal age, for instance, by reducing black market supply through competition.

"We also found that in the portion of the BRFSS sample who smoked cigarettes, respondents living in counties with higher levels of legal cannabis sales were less likely to report past-month cannabis use. It is particularly difficult to explain why increased sales would lead to lower cannabis use among cigarette smokers."

Darnell, A.J. & Bitney, K. (2017). I-502 evaluation and benefit-cost analysis: Second required report. (Document Number 17-09-3201). Olympia: Washington State Institute for Public Policy, September 2017, p. 34.
http://www.wsipp.wa.gov/Report...

3. Prevalence and Trends in Marijuana Use Rates in Colorado Before and After Amendment 64

Total US
According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), in 2008-2009, an estimated 13.37% of young people in the US aged 12 through 17 had used marijuana in the past year, falling to 12.29% in 2015-2016. The NSDUH also estimates that, in 2008-2009, an estimated 7.03% of young people in the US aged 12 through 17 had used marijuana in the past month, dropping to 6.75% in 2015-2016.

Colorado State
According to the NSDUH, in 2008-2009, an estimated 18.55% of young people in Colorado aged 12 through 17 had used marijuana in the past year, falling to 16.21% in 2015-2016. The NSDUH also estimates that, in 2008-2009, an estimated 10.17% of young people in Colorado aged 12 through 17 had used marijuana in the past month, dropping to 9.08% in 2015-2016.

Click for a table comparing estimated prevalence of marijuana use in Colorado before and after passage and implementation of Amendment 64

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2017). National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Comparison of 2008-2009 and 2015-2016 Population Percentages (50 States and the District of Columbia). Rockville, MD: Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Retrieved from https://www.samhsa.gov/data/
https://www.samhsa.gov/data/po...
https://www.samhsa.gov/data/si...
https://www.samhsa.gov/data/si...
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2017). National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Comparison of 2014-2015 and 2015-2016 Population Percentages (50 States and the District of Columbia). Rockville, MD: Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Retrieved from https://www.samhsa.gov/data/
https://www.samhsa.gov/data/si...
https://www.samhsa.gov/data/si...

4. Uruguay Legalizes Marijuana

“President José Mujica has quietly signed into law the government’s plan to create a regulated, legal market for marijuana, the president’s spokesman said Tuesday. The presidential secretary Diego Canepa said Mr. Mujica signed the legislation on Monday night. That was the last formal step for the law to take effect. Officials now have until April 9 to write the fine print for regulating every aspect of the marijuana market, from growing to selling in a network of pharmacies. They hope to have the whole system in place by the middle of next year. But as of Tuesday, growing marijuana at home was legal, up to six plants per family and an annual harvest of 480 grams, or about one pound.”

Source: Associated Press, “Uruguay: Marijuana Becomes Legal,” in the New York Times, December 24, 2013.
http://www.nytimes.com...

5. Limitation on Federal Interference With Implementation of State Medical Marijuana Laws

In December 2014, the federal budget for FY2015 was enacted, containing this provision:
"SEC. 538. None of the funds made available in this Act to the Department of Justice may be used, with respect to the States of Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Washington, and Wisconsin, to prevent such States from implementing their own State laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of medical marijuana."

"Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act, 2015," US Congress, Enrolled Bill Published December 17, 2014, p. 88.
https://www.congress.gov/113/b...

6. Marijuana Legalization and Arrests in Colorado

"The total number of marijuana arrests decreased by 52% between 2012 and 2017, from 12,709 to 6,153. Marijuana possession arrests, which make up the majority of all marijuana arrests, were cut in half (‐54%). Marijuana sales arrests decreased by 17%. Arrests for marijuana production increased appreciably (+51%%). Marijuana arrests that were unspecified, meaning the specific reason for the arrest was not noted by law enforcement, went down by 45%.

"The number of marijuana arrests decreased by 56% for Whites, 39% for Hispanics, and 51% for Blacks. The marijuana arrest rate for Blacks (233 per 100,000) was nearly double that of Whites (118 per 100,000) in 2017.

"Nine large Colorado counties (Adams, Arapahoe, Boulder, Douglas, El Paso, Jefferson, Larimer, Mesa, and Weld) showed a decrease in marijuana arrests, ranging between ‐8% (Boulder) and ‐67% (Adams). The average decline across these nine counties was ‐46%.

"Separate data provided by the Denver Police Department’s Data Analysis Unit indicates
an 81% decrease in total marijuana arrests, from 1,605 in 2012 to 302 in 2017.

"The most common marijuana industry‐related crime in Denver was burglary,
accounting for 59% of marijuana crime related to the industry in 2017."

Impacts of Marijuana Legalization in Colorado: A Report Pursuant to Senate Bill 13-283. Colorado Department of Public Safety, Division of Criminal Justice, Office of Research and Statistics. October 2018, pp. 1-2.
https://www.colorado.gov/pacif...
http://cdpsdocs.state.co.us/or...

7. Impact of Marijuana Legalization on Traffic and Driving Safety in Colorado

"The increase in law enforcement officers who are trained in recognizing drug use, from 129 in 2012 to 214 in 2018, can increase drug detection rates apart from any changes in driver behavior.

"Traffic safety data were obtained from a number of different sources. Please note that traffic safety data may be incomplete because law enforcement officers may determine that alcohol is impairing the driver, and therefore additional (time consuming and costly) drug testing may not be pursued.

"The total number of DUI citations issued by the Colorado State Patrol (CSP) decreased from 5,705 in 2014 to 4,849 in 2017. The prevalence of marijuana or marijuana‐in‐combination identified by Patrol officers as the impairing substance increased from 12% of all DUIs in 2014 to 15% in 2017.

"In 2016, the most recent data available, 27,244 cases were filed in court that included a charge of driving under the influence; 17,824 of these were matched with either a breath or blood test.1

"Of these, 3,946 had blood samples screened for the presence of marijuana: 2,885 cases (73.2%) had a positive cannabinoid screen and a follow‐up confirmation for other cannabis metabolites, and 47.5% detected Delta‐9 THC at 5.0 ng/mL or above.

"According to CDOT, the number of fatalities in which a driver tested positive for Delta‐9 THC at or above the 5.0 ng/mL level declined from 52 (13% of all fatalities) in 2016 to 35 in 2017 (8% of all fatalities).

"The number of fatalities with cannabinoid‐only or cannabinoid‐in‐combination positive drivers increased 153%, from 55 in 2013 to 139 in 2017.

"However, note that the detection of any cannabinoid in blood is not an indicator of impairment but only indicates presence in the system. Detection of Delta‐9 THC, one of the primary psychoactive metabolites of marijuana, may be an indicator of impairment.

"A 2017 survey conducted by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment found that 3.0% of adults reported driving within two‐to‐three hours of using marijuana in the past‐30 days, while 19.7% of recent marijuana users reported this behavior."

Impacts of Marijuana Legalization in Colorado: A Report Pursuant to Senate Bill 13-283. Colorado Department of Public Safety, Division of Criminal Justice, Office of Research and Statistics. October 2018, pp. 2-3.
https://www.colorado.gov/pacif...
http://cdpsdocs.state.co.us/or...

8. Emergency Department Visits and Hospitalizations Related to Marijuana Use Post-Legalization in Colorado

"The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) analyzed data from the
Colorado Hospital Administration (CHA) with these findings:

"Hospitalization rates (per 100,000 hospitalizations) with possible marijuana exposures, diagnoses, or billing codes increased from 803 per 100,000 before commercialization (2001‐2009) to 2,696 per 100,000 after commercialization (January 2014‐September 2015). The period from October 2015‐December 2015 indicated another increase, but due to changes in coding systems, variable structures, and policies at CHA, the numbers for 2016 are considered preliminary by CDPHE.

"The period of retail commercialization showed an increase in emergency department visits, from 739 per 100,000 ED visits (2010–2013) to 913 per 100,000 ED visits (January 2014–September 2015). There was no definitive trend during the period October 2015‐December 2015 and, due to changes in coding systems, variable structures, and policies at CHA, these figures for 2016 are considered preliminary by CDPHE.

"The number of calls to poison control mentioning human marijuana exposure increased over the past 10 years. There were 45 calls in 2006 and 222 in 2017. Between 2014 and 2017, the frequency of calls reporting human marijuana exposure stabilized."

Impacts of Marijuana Legalization in Colorado: A Report Pursuant to Senate Bill 13-283. Colorado Department of Public Safety, Division of Criminal Justice, Office of Research and Statistics. October 2018, pp. 4-5.
https://www.colorado.gov/pacif...
http://cdpsdocs.state.co.us/or...

9. Use of Marijuana by Young People in Colorado Since Legalization

"Data on youth marijuana use was available from two sources. The Healthy Kids Colorado Survey (HKCS), with 47,146 high school and 6,704 middle school students responding in 2017, and the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), with about 512 respondents in 2015/16.

"HKCS results indicate no significant change in past 30‐day use of marijuana between 2013 (19.7%) and 2017 (19.4%). Also, in 2017, the use rates were not different from the national 30‐day use rates reported by the Youth Risk Behavior Survey.2 In 2017, 19.4% of Colorado high school students reported using marijuana in the past 30‐days compared to 19.8% of high school students nationally that reported this behavior.

"The 2017 HKCS found that marijuana use increases by grade level, with 11.0% of 9th graders, 17.7% of 10th graders, 23.7% of 11th graders, and 25.7% of 12th reporting use in the past 30‐days.

"The 2015/16 NSDUH, with many fewer respondents compared to HKCS, indicated a gradual increase in youth use from 2006/07 (9.1%) to 2013/14 (12.6%); however, the last two years showed decreased use, with 9.1% reporting use in 2015/16. The NSDUH showed that youth use of marijuana in Colorado (9.1%) was above the national average (6.8%)."

Impacts of Marijuana Legalization in Colorado: A Report Pursuant to Senate Bill 13-283. Colorado Department of Public Safety, Division of Criminal Justice, Office of Research and Statistics. October 2018, p. 5.
https://www.colorado.gov/pacif...
http://cdpsdocs.state.co.us/or...

10. Arrests of Young People on Marijuana Charges in Colorado Since Legalization

"The number of juvenile marijuana arrests decreased 16%, from 3,168 in 2012 to 2,655 in 2017. The rate of juvenile marijuana arrests per 100,000 decreased from 583 in 2012 to 453 in 2017 (‐22%).

"The number of White juvenile arrests decreased from 2,146 in 2012 to 1,703 in 2017 (‐21%).

"The number of Hispanic juvenile arrests decreased from 767 in 2012 to 733 in 2017 (‐4%).

"The number of Black juvenile arrests decreased from 202 in 2012 to 172 in 2017 (‐15%)."

Impacts of Marijuana Legalization in Colorado: A Report Pursuant to Senate Bill 13-283. Colorado Department of Public Safety, Division of Criminal Justice, Office of Research and Statistics. October 2018, p. 5.
https://www.colorado.gov/pacif...
http://cdpsdocs.state.co.us/or...

11. Marijuana Use by Young People in Washington State Following Legalization

"More schools and students are captured in the HYS [Washington Healthy Youth Survey] than MTF [Monitoring The Future Survey] (Table). The MTF included fewer low–socioeconomic status and nonwhite youth in the prelegalization vs postlegalization period.

"Estimates from the MTF show statistically nonsignificant change in the prevalence of cannabis use for 8th graders (from 6.2% [95% CI, 4.4%-8.7%] to 8.2% [95% CI, 6.3%-10.7%];P = .16), and a significant increase for 10th graders (from 16.2% [95% CI, 14.0%-18.6%] to 20.3% [95% CI, 16.9%-24.1%]; P = .02). In contrast, the HYS shows statistically significant declines in prevalence from 2010-2012 to 2014-2016 among both 8th graders (from 9.8% [95% CI, 9.1%-10.5%] to 7.3% [95% CI, 6.6%-8.0%]; P < .001) and 10th graders (from 19.8% [95%CI, 18.6%-21.0%] to 17.8% [95%CI, 16.7%-18.9%]; P = .01). Neither MTF nor HYS analysis showed changes among 12th graders (Figure). Findings from HYS comparisons to 2014 alone were of less magnitude but similar direction."

Dilley JA, Richardson SM, Kilmer B, Pacula RL, Segawa MB, Cerdá M. Prevalence of Cannabis Use in Youths After Legalization in Washington State. JAMA Pediatr. 2019;173(2):192–193. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2018.4458
https://jamanetwork.com/journa...

12. Marijuana Arrests in Washington State Following Legalization

"Preliminary look at racial disparities in select counties of Washington

"The Crime, Cannabis & Police Research Group at Washington State University used preliminary data from a Department of Justice funded study to compare white vs. Black arrests.11 Latinos were not included in the analysis, because of difficulties measuring ethnicity in arrest data. Their main preliminary findings are that after legalization in Washington, African Americans/Blacks continue to be disproportionally arrested for the possession and selling of marijuana when compared to whites. Though the disparity in marijuana possession between African American/Blacks and whites was reduced slightly after legalization, the disparity for selling marijuana has more than doubled since legalization.

"Local trends

"While statewide studies have the ability to control for individual law enforcement agencies or police departments, monitoring trends in marijuana-related crimes within a local police department can provide details of violations that statewide data systems do not. For example, violations for public consumption of marijuana cannot be directly queried from state-derived data; however, local law enforcement agencies and municipal courts maintain details on the nature of the crime that would indicate whether someone was ticketed for public consumption vs. possession or a different drug-related charge. One example of the potential of local data to explore issues of criminal justice can be made using data from the Seattle Police Department (SPD). A 2015 report for the Seattle Community Police Commission showed a disproportionate number of citations for marijuana public consumption issued to African Americans/Blacks in Seattle.12 Using local police department data is key to understanding differences in the implementation and enforcement of polices pertaining to the legalization of marijuana."

Firth C. Marijuana Legalization in Washington State: Monitoring the Impact on Racial Disparities in Criminal Justice. Alcohol & Drug Abuse Institute, University of Washington, June 2018.
http://adai.uw.edu/pubs/pdf/20...

13. Racial Disparities in Marijuana Arrests in Colorado and Oregon Following Legalization

"Compelling evidence in other states suggest racial disparities persist or have become worse after legalization and the opening of a licensed marijuana market, even while total marijuana-related criminal justice incidents have decreased.

"In Colorado, marijuana court filings decreased by 85% from 2010 to 2014 after legalizing marijuana in 2012. During the same time frame the rate of arrests for marijuana possession among African Americans/Blacks remained 2.4 times higher compared to the arrest rate for whites. The disparities for African American/Blacks were even larger for arrests for marijuana cultivation (2.5 times the arrest rate for whites) and distribution of marijuana (5.4 times the arrest rate for whites).13

"Results from Oregon are consistent with findings in Colorado. The Oregon Public Health Division examined changes in the age-adjusted rates of marijuana arrests by racial groups.14 The age adjusted rate of marijuana arrests for African Americans/Blacks was 2 to 3 times the rate of whites during 2010–2014. Oregon legalized marijuana in 2014 and in the following year the disparity between African Americans/Blacks and whites persisted. Specifically, the rate of arrest was 77% higher among African Americans/Blacks in 2015 when compared to whites.

"Preliminary results suggest that legalization of marijuana for adults has greatly reduced the number of people arrested and convicted for marijuana-related crimes, yet racial disparities persist in Washington and in other states. Other factors may contribute to sustaining the racial disparities, such as over-policing in low-income neighborhoods, racial profiling, and other racially biased police practices. 15 These inequitable practices may minimize the potential positive impacts of I-502 and marijuana legalization on all communities."

Firth C. Marijuana Legalization in Washington State: Monitoring the Impact on Racial Disparities in Criminal Justice. Alcohol & Drug Abuse Institute, University of Washington, June 2018.
http://adai.uw.edu/pubs/pdf/20...

14. Impact of Marijuana Legalization on the State of Washington

"In these initial investigations, we found no evidence that I-502 enactment, on the whole, affected cannabis abuse treatment admissions. Further, within Washington State, we found no evidence that the amount of legal cannabis sales affected cannabis abuse treatment admissions.

"The bulk of outcome analyses in this report used the within-state approach to focus on identifying effects of the amount of legal cannabis sales. We found no evidence that the amount of legal cannabis sales affected youth substance use or attitudes about cannabis or drug-related criminal convictions.

"We did find evidence that higher levels of retail cannabis sales affected adult cannabis use in certain subgroups of the population. BRFSS respondents 21 and older who lived in counties with higher levels of retail cannabis sales were more likely to report using cannabis in the past 30 days and heavy use of cannabis in the past 30 days.

"We also found two effects that are difficult to interpret. Among the portion of the population aged 18 to 21, BRFSS respondents living in counties with higher sales were less likely to report using cannabis in the past 30 days, in some analyses. It may be that legal cannabis sales have made cannabis more difficult to access by persons below the legal age, for instance, by reducing black market supply through competition.

"We also found that in the portion of the BRFSS sample who smoked cigarettes, respondents living in counties with higher levels of legal cannabis sales were less likely to report past-month cannabis use. It is particularly difficult to explain why increased sales would lead to lower cannabis use among cigarette smokers."

Darnell, A.J. & Bitney, K. (2017). I-502 evaluation and benefit-cost analysis: Second
required report. (Document Number 17-09-3201). Olympia: Washington State Institute for Public Policy.
https://www.wsipp.wa.gov/Repor...

15. Netherlands Drug Policy

"All recent policy documents state that the Dutch drug policy has two cornerstones - and this was confirmed by the Minister of Health, Welfare and Sport during the major drug debate in the House of Representatives in March 2012: to protect public health and to combat public nuisance and drug-related crime (TK 24077-259; TK Handelingen 69-28 maart 2012). In the current Opium Act Directive the objective of the drug policy is described as: 'The [new] Dutch drugs policy is aimed to discourage and reduce drug use, certainly in so far as it causes damage to health and to society, and to prevent and reduce the damage associated with drug use, drug production and the drugs trade' (Stc 2011-11134)."

Van Laar, M.W., Cruts, A.A.N., Van Ooyen-Houben, M.M.J., Van Gageldonk, A., Croes, E.A., Meijer, R.F., et al. (2013). The Netherlands drug situation 2012: report to the EMCDDA by the Reitox National Focal Point. Trimbos-instituut/WODC, Utrecht/Den Haag, p. 16.

16. Marijuana Legalization May Lead To Decreased Use By Young People

"Consistent with the results of previous researchers,2 there was no evidence that the legalization of medical marijuana encourages marijuana use among youth. Moreover, the estimates reported in the Table showed that marijuana use among youth may actually decline after legalization for recreational purposes. This latter result is consistent with findings by Dilley et al4 and with the argument that it is more difficult for teenagers to obtain marijuana as drug dealers are replaced by licensed dispensaries that require proof of age.6"

Anderson DM, Hansen B, Rees DI, Sabia JJ. Association of Marijuana Laws With Teen Marijuana Use: New Estimates From the Youth Risk Behavior Surveys. JAMA Pediatr. Published online July 08, 2019. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2019.1720
https://jamanetwork.com/journa...

17. Marijuana Tax Act of 1937 and Federal Prohibition

"Marijuana essentially became illegal in 1937 pursuant to the Marijuana Tax Act.39 The use of marijuana required the payment of a tax for usage; failure to pay the tax resulted in a large fine or stiff prison time for tax evasion.40 Drug prohibition was elevated to another level by targeting 'marijuana,' a plant that had never demonstrated any harm to anyone.41
"Anslinger’s [Harry J. Anslinger, the first Commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics] efforts to eradicate marijuana continued when Anslinger sought similar anti-narcotic laws against marijuana at the state level.42 Guided by Anslinger’s policy direction, states began passing their own laws or adopting more strident versions of federal laws.43 By 1952, nearly all states had anti-narcotic laws in place.44"

Gilmore, Brian, "Again and Again We Suffer: the Poor and the Endurance of the 'War on Drugs,'" University of the District of Columbia Law Review (Washington, DC: The University of the District of Columbia David A. Clarke School of Law, 2011) Volume 15, Number 1, p. 64.
http://www.udclawreview.com...