The Effect of State Marijuana Legalizations: 2021 Update

40 Pages Posted: 19 Mar 2021

See all articles by Angela K. Dills

Angela K. Dills

Western Carolina University

Sietse Goffard

Cato Institute

Jeffrey Miron

Cato Institute

Erin Partin

Cato Institute

Date Written: February 2, 2021

Abstract

In November 2012, Colorado and Washington approved ballot initiatives that legalized marijuana for recreational use under state law. Since then, nine additional states (Alaska, Oregon, California, Nevada, Maine, Vermont, Massachusetts, Michigan, and Illinois) plus the District of Columbia have followed suit, either by ballot initiative or legislative action. Voters in four other states (New Jersey, South Dakota, Arizona, and Montana) approved state ballot measures legalizing marijuana for personal use in the November 2020 election.

Supporters and critics make numerous claims about state‐​level marijuana legalizations. Advocates suggest that legalization reduces crime, raises tax revenue, lowers criminal justice expenditures, improves public health, increases traffic safety, and stimulates the economy. Critics argue that legalization spurs marijuana and other drug or alcohol use, increases crime, diminishes traffic safety, harms public health, and lowers teen educational achievement.

In previous work, we found that the strong claims made by both advocates and critics are substantially overstated and in some cases entirely without support from existing legalizations; mainly, state legalizations have had minor effects. This paper updates previous work to account for additional years of data and the increase in the number of states with legalized marijuana. Our conclusions remain the same, but our assessments of legalization’s effects remain tentative because of limitations in the data. The existing data nevertheless provide a useful perspective on what other states should expect from legalization or related policies.

Keywords: marijuana, drug regulation, marijuana regulation, recreational marijuana, medicinal marijuana, recreational drug use, drug legislation

JEL Classification: I10, I18, H70, H73, H75, H79

Suggested Citation

Dills, Angela K. and Goffard, Sietse and Miron, Jeffrey and Partin, Erin, The Effect of State Marijuana Legalizations: 2021 Update (February 2, 2021). Cato Institute, Policy Analysis No. 908, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3780276

Angela K. Dills (Contact Author)

Western Carolina University ( email )

Cullowhee, NC 28723
United States
8282273329 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://faculty.wcu.edu/akdills

Sietse Goffard

Cato Institute ( email )

1000 Massachusetts Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20001-5403
United States

Jeffrey Miron

Cato Institute ( email )

1000 Massachusetts Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20001-5403
United States

Erin Partin

Cato Institute ( email )

1000 Massachusetts Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20001-5403
United States

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