Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Latest pot legalization study ‘casts more smoke than light’

Looks like another inconclusive academic study regarding Marijuana legalization. I got this email from Dale this afternoon (at noon):

“Overall, this report casts more smoke than light on the issue , but that is in the nature of any academic study where so many basic facts remain in dispute. The most important lesson to be taken away is that the benefits of legalization depend strongly on how it is implemented.  Passing a  bill or initiative is therefore just the first step in a lengthy process requiring many additional, carefully considered policy decisions.”

      - Dale Gieringer Cal NORML


The current California proposals to legalize marijuana would go well beyond cannabis reforms in any other nation to date-even the Dutch cannabis coffee-shop system. California voters and legislators face considerable uncertainty because it is very difficult to estimate how much more marijuana will be consumed in the state or how the change will affect tax revenues, criminal-justice costs, and health-care costs. Nonetheless, we believe that bringing together relevant data in a systematic fashion and developing a model has provided some important insights:
* The pretax retail price of marijuana will substantially decline, likely by more than 80 per-
cent. The price consumers face will depend heavily on taxes, the structure of the regula-
tory regime, and how taxes and regulations are enforced.
* Consumption will increase, but it is unclear how much because we know neither the
shape of the demand curve nor the level of tax evasion (which reduces revenues and the
prices that consumers face).
* Tax revenues could be dramatically lower or higher than the $1.4 billion estimate; for
example, uncertainty about the federal response to California legalization can swing esti-
mates in either direction.
* Previous studies find that the annual cost of enforcing marijuana laws ranges from around
$200 million to nearly $1.9 billion; our estimates show that the costs are probably less
than $300 million.
* There is considerable uncertainty about the impact that legalizing marijuana in Califor-
nia would have on public budgets and consumption, with even minor changes in assump-
tions leading to major differences in outcomes.

* Much of the research used to inform this debate is based on insights from studies that
examine small changes in marijuana prices or the risk of being sanctioned for posses-
sion. The proposed legislation in California would create a large change in policy. As a result, it is uncertain how useful these studies are for making projections about marijuana
Legalization has many potential dimensions; thus, the term can mean many different
things (MacCoun and Reuter, 2001). An examination of the Dutch system, the Australian
and Alaskan home-cultivation allowances, and the far more-extensive international experiences with alcohol and tobacco regulation suggests that the devil is in the details. On many dimensions, neither the Ammiano bill nor the RCTC proposition is particularly good at the details. Indeed, many of the issues addressed in this paper are specific to the "details" of these two proposals, not to marijuana legalization in general.

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