Marijuana Legalization: Policy Analysis and Insights
People have discussed cannabis legalization for decades, but in a perhaps surprising twist, it is two states in the U.S. that are the first to have truly legalized – including large-scale, for-profit commercial production for non-medical use.
These actions are not carefully designed, top-down public-health oriented reforms, but exercises in direct-democracy via ballot initiative through which the voters have mandated that the state allow a (licensed and regulated) free-market industry. The propositions only repealed state and local laws; every marijuana-related activity – even possession of a single joint by an individual with a medical recommendation – remains fully prohibited under federal law. However, state and local enforcement accounts for almost 99% of marijuana arrests. Traditionally federal law enforcement has focused on larger cases, and those in border areas; the Obama Administration has not clarified how it will employ its discretion to prosecute or ignore the newly legalized activity. The policy with respect to medical marijuana has been to ignore activity that comply with state and local laws, but that precedent is in no way binding.
This talk draws on two sources: (1) Research conducted at RAND and Carnegie Mellon on the 17 proposals to legalize free market production of non-medical marijuana that were put forward in the U.S. in 2012, with particular emphasis on the three that made it on the ballot and the two which passed and (2) Experience with BOTEC and RAND advising Washington State’s Liquor Control Board, the agency responsible for implementing the I-502 cannabis legalization system. Contrasts are drawn between legalization as envisioned a priori in the abstract and how it is playing out in fact.
No outcome or evaluation results will be presented; to date, only the legalization of personal possession is operational. The regulatory structure has only just been designed, and applications for production licenses will only begin to be accepted later this year.
Jonathan P. Caulkins is H. Guyford Stever Professor of Operations Research and Public Policy at Carnegie Mellon University’s Heinz College of Public Policy and Information Systems Management.
Dr. Caulkins is co-author (with Angela Hawken, Beau Kilmer, and Mark Kleiman) of Marijuana Legalization: What Everyone Needs to Know (Oxford, 2012) and eight other books and monographs.
He specializes in systems analysis of problems pertaining to drugs, crime, terror, violence, and prevention – work that won the David Kershaw Award from the Association of Public Policy Analysis and Management, a Robert Wood Johnson Health Investigator Award, and the INFORMS President’s Award. Other interests include reputation and brand management, software quality, optimal control, black markets, airline operations, and personnel performance evaluation. He has taught his quantitative decision making course on four continents to students from over 50 countries at every level from undergraduate through Ph.D. and executive education.
He is a past co-director of RAND’s Drug Policy Research Center (1994 – 1996), founding Director of RAND’s Pittsburgh office (1999 – 2001), and continues to work through RAND on a variety of government projects.
Dr. Caulkins received a B.S., and M.S. in Systems Science from Washington University, an S.M. in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and Ph.D., in Operations Research both from M.I.T.