Cannabis prohibition has a disproportionate impact on people of color. A prime example of that can be found in arrest data in New York City. Below is more information about what is currently going on in New York City (which is a situation that is obviously unacceptable) via our friends at the Drug Policy Alliance:
A major investigation by the New York Times found continued racial disparities in marijuana enforcement and arrests in every neighborhood in the City.
The Times found, “Across the city, black people were arrested on low-level marijuana charges at eight times the rate of white, non-Hispanic people over the past three years. Hispanic people were arrested at five times the rate of white people. In Manhattan, the gap is even starker: Black people there were arrested at 15 times the rate of white people.”
The Times also debunked the NYPD explanation for the disparities, which the police attribute to more 311 and 911 complaints in certain neighborhoods.
“New York’s marijuana arrest crusade is causing significant harms to the City’s most vulnerable communities and has long been used as a justification for the hyper-policing of communities of color,” said Kassandra Frederique, New York State Director for the Drug Policy Alliance. “NYPD is funneling tens of thousands of New Yorkers into the maze of the criminal justice system every year and putting people at risk of deportation, losing custody of their children, and barring them from employment and housing – all for nothing more than a small amount of marijuana.”
“Given New York’s embarrassing history as the marijuana arrest capital of the world, we must focus on repairing the harms of prohibition and ending the biased policing practices that have ruined the lives of so many young Black and Latino New Yorkers. Ultimately, the best way to address the disparities and challenges posed by prohibition is to create a system to tax and regulate marijuana that will reinvest in communities that have been most harmed by the marijuana arrest crusade,” Frederique continued.
DPA has consistently documented the NYPD’s racist marijuana enforcement over the past decade, including the release of multiple reports.
DPA is currently leading a campaign, Start Smart New York, to pass marijuana legalization in New York, with a focus on racial, social and economic justice.
Last week, Assemblymember Crystal Peoples-Stokes and Senator Liz Krueger were joined by organizations and groups dedicated to criminal justice reform, civil rights, and public health as they stood in support of the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA), a bill that would legalize the production, distribution, and use of marijuana for adults over the age of 21. The bill would effectively end marijuana prohibition in New York State and would create a system to tax and regulate marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol.
The legislation also ensures tax revenue generated from marijuana legalization is put to use repairing communities devastated by harsh enforcement of prohibition by directing revenue to fund job training, adult education, youth development programming, establish or expand community centers, bolster re-entry services for the formerly incarcerated, and otherwise support community-focused programming in communities that have been disproportionately impacted by the drug war, in addition to education, public health, and drug treatment.
It’s official – cannabis legalization has made the ballot in Michigan. Clifford Robinson played for the Detroit Pistons from 2001-2003 and lived in Michigan after his playing career was over. He has long supported cannabis reform efforts in the state of Michigan and is extremely happy that Michigan voters will see cannabis legalization on the ballot in November.
The Uncle Cliffy team, including and especially Clifford Robinson himself, want to extend a huge congratulations to cannabis advocates in Michigan for their successful signature drive! Now the hard work begins as the campaign effort in Michigan shifts from gathering signatures to educating voters about the benefits of legalization and the harms of prohibition.
Below is more information about the initiative making the ballot in Michigan via our friends at the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol:
The Michigan State Board of Canvassers approved today the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol’s petition to place an initiative that would legalize marijuana possession and consumption for all adults 21 years and older on the state’s November ballot. If approved by voters, Michigan would become the first state in the Midwest with an adult-use cannabis law.
“This November, Michigan voters will finally get the chance to eliminate Michigan’s outdated marijuana laws,” said Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol spokesperson John Truscott. “Just like with alcohol, it is clear that prohibition doesn’t work and that regulation and taxation is a far better solution.”
In addition to allowing adults 21 and older to possess and consume limited amounts of marijuana, the initiative would:
- License marijuana businesses that cultivate, process, test, transport and sell marijuana;
- Legalize the cultivation of industrial hemp (used to make textiles, biodegradable plastics, food, construction materials and even fuel);
- Protect consumers with proper testing and safety regulations for retail marijuana;
- Impose a 10 percent excise tax on marijuana sold at the retail level on top of the state’s 6 percent sales tax; and
- Give local governments the option of whether they want to allow marijuana businesses in their community.
“This is an important reform that will help end thousands of unnecessary arrests and redirect law enforcement resources to real needs – like combating violent crime and fighting the opioid epidemic – while also generating hundreds of millions of new tax dollars for our schools, roads and local governments,” said former Detroit Police Chief Ike McKinnon.
“This isn’t just my opinion,” McKinnon added. “I’ve talked to countless law enforcement officials throughout Michigan and the country who believe the same.”
Voter-initiated laws are required to collect 252,523 valid signatures to have an issue placed on the ballot. The Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol submitted more than 365,000 signatures to the state Elections Bureau in November last year. Elections Bureau staff estimate that more than 277,000 signatures were valid.
“When you look at the success of other states that have already legalized and regulated marijuana, it is clear this initiative is the path forward,” said Michigan NORML board member Brad Forrester. “States that have legalized and regulated marijuana have seen decreases in opioid-related deaths while also adding hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenue each year.”
Other organizations supporting the coalition include the Marijuana Policy Project, the National Cannabis Industry Association, the ACLU of Michigan, the Drug Policy Alliance, the National Patients Rights Association and MILegalize.
“With polls showing nearly 60 percent of Michigan voters supporting legalization, it’s clear that the public is way ahead of the politicians on this issue,” said Jeffrey Hank, executive director of MILegalize. “The people are tired of the failed policies of the past and understand that creating reasonable, responsible regulations is the way forward to tens of thousands of new jobs and opportunities in Michigan. This November the people will make their voice heard!”
For more information about the ballot initiative, including full language of the proposed law, please visit www.RegulateMI.org.
For more information about the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, please visit RegulateMI.org.
A big push has been underway to legalize cannabis in Connecticut, led by the Connecticut Coalition to Regulate Marijuana. Clifford Robinson is a proud member of the coalition and has had a special place in his heart for reform efforts in Connecticut ever since he attended college at the University of Connecticut (class of 1989).
With surrounding states looking more and more likely to legalize cannabis sooner rather than later, Connecticut would be smart to get on the right side of history.
The Connecticut Coalition to Regulate Marijuana sent out an action alert today, which can be found below. If you live in Connecticut, please do what you can. If you don’t live in Connecticut but know those that do, please share the below message with them:
HB 5394 — a bill to move Connecticut towards legalizing and regulating marijuana — received a calendar number yesterday! This means that, procedurally speaking, it can be called for a vote in the House at any time (or it could never get acted on).
Now comes our biggest challenge: Making sure we have a majority of representatives committed to voting “yes” to replace marijuana prohibition with sensible regulation.
Please call your state representative TODAY. Just click on this link, fill in your address, and our automated system will provide your representative’s number along with talking points to help you decide what you want to say.
Polls show that 71% of Connecticut residents want to end marijuana prohibition. But for this bill to pass, it is crucial that lawmakers hear that this is an issue their constituents care about.
So, please, make the phone call today. Then, spread the word so that, together, we can make history in the Constitution State.
Connecticut Coalition to Regulate Marijuana
Clifford Robinson is a very proud member of the Connecticut Coalition to Regulate Marijuana which has been working to make cannabis legalization a reality in Connecticut. Robinson played college basketball at the University of Connecticut from 1985-1989 and is a member of UConn’s Men’s Basketball All-Century Team.
The Uncle Cliffy team is happy to announce that a cannabis legalization bill was approved by a committee in Connecticut’s Legislature today. More information about today’s victory can be found below via a press release issued by the Marijuana Policy Project:
The Joint Committee on Appropriations approved a bill that would legalize and regulate marijuana for adults in Connecticut on Thursday, potentially setting it up for floor consideration before the end of this year’s legislative session.
HB 5394, which was introduced by the committee, would task the commissioners of Mental Health and Addiction Services and Consumer Protection and Revenue Services with developing regulations for possession and retail sales of marijuana for adults 21 and older. More details will be added to the bill as it moves forward over the coming weeks.
“This committee vote reiterates what most Connecticut residents already know: it is time to make marijuana legal for adults,” said Becky Dansky, legislative counsel for the Marijuana Policy Project. “The discussions that have taken place in the legislature this year have provided more than enough information to effectively move forward with legalization. Connecticut should stop punishing adults for using a substance that is safer than alcohol, and it has an opportunity to regulate marijuana before it starts losing tax revenue to other states in the region that have already started this process.”
There are nine states that have made marijuana legal for adults, as well as the District of Columbia. Neighboring Massachusetts is in the process of implementing its regulated marijuana market, and in nearby New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy has made legalizing and regulating marijuana a priority this year.
A poll conducted by Sacred Heart University in October 2017 showed that 71% of Connecticut residents support regulating and taxing marijuana for adults.
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The Connecticut Coalition to Regulate Marijuana is a coalition of citizens, organizations, and community leaders working to end marijuana prohibition in Connecticut and replace it with a system in which marijuana is regulated and taxed similarly to alcohol. For more information, visit https://www.RegulateCT.org.
Opioid use is a major concern for athletes that compete at all levels. Athletes are at a higher risk of getting injured compared to non-athletes, and whenever there is an injury involved the potential for opioid abuse becomes a very real threat.
Professional sports leagues have been struggling to reduce opioid abuse among players, and retired athletes have been scrambling to find ways to battle the issue on their own. Fortunately for athletes, there is a plant that can help according to a growing body of research. That plant is, of course, the cannabis plant.
The results of two studies were released recently which found that increased access to cannabis leads to a reduction in opioid use. Below is more information about it from our friends at Americans for Safe Access:
New research has been released that further highlights the potential role of medical cannabis in combating the Nation’s opioid crisis . Two studies, published on April 2nd by the Journal of the American Medical Association reveal a net decrease in opioid prescriptions in states with medical cannabis laws for Medicare and Medicaid populations.
The first study, conducted by researchers at the University of Georgia, found that states with active medical cannabis dispensaries saw 3,742,000 fewer daily doses per year filled for prescription opioids under Medicare Part D (typically enrollees are over 65) compared to states without medical cannabis programs. This decrease equates to about a 14% reduction in opioid prescriptions in states with medical cannabis laws. The other study revealed that states with medical cannabis laws were associated with a 5.88% lower rate of opioid prescribing for individuals enrolled in Medicaid (typically enrollees are low income) than states without medical cannabis laws.
“This research continues to validate the notion that cannabis is an effective tool in pain management” said Steph Sherer, Executive Director for Americans for Safe Access. “The latest numbers show us that there were over 64,000 opioid deaths last year. We need to be doing more to fight this epidemic, especially by making sure that individuals suffering from chronic pain have the option to use non-addictive, effective pain treatments like medical cannabis.”
In January 2017, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine found significant evidence that cannabis is effective at treating pain in some conditions. Previously published research has indicated that states with medical cannabis laws have shown up to a 25% reduction in opioid deaths and that states with medical cannabis dispensaries have shown reductions in opioid overdose deaths by as much as 40%.
In response to the ongoing opioid crisis, Americans for Safe Access, in partnership with the U.S. Pain Foundation and other advocacy organizations launched the End Pain, Not Lives campaign in late 2017. The campaign focuses on making cannabis an option for pain management.
More can be found about the campaign here.
Clifford Robinson played for the New Jersey Nets from 2005-2007 and lived in New Jersey after he retired from the National Basketball Association. Because of that Clifford has always supported cannabis reform efforts in New Jersey.
Unfortunately, cannabis reform has been hard to come by in New Jersey this decade due to former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. The winds of change are picking up though now that New Jersey has a new Governor (Phil Murphy).
Today New Jersey announced that it would be expanding its medical cannabis program, which is something that the Uncle Cliffy team applauds. Below is more information about today’s announcement via our friends at the Drug P0licy Alliance:
Today, Governor Phil Murphy announced steps to expand New Jersey’s long-stalled Medicinal Marijuana Program. The Governor acted quickly after taking office, issuing an executive order mandating the Department of Health to review the program and make recommendations for improvement. The announcement today is the result of this executive order.
The changes include:
- Five new qualifying conditions, including chronic pain related to musculoskeletal disorders, chronic pain of visceral origin (relating to the stomach), migraines, anxiety and Tourette Syndrome;
- Alternative Treatment Centers (ATCs) currently operating will be able to open satellite locations and an additional grow site in order to increase the supply of medical marijuana;
- Registration fees will be reduced from $200 to $100 for a medical marijuana card;
- All patients will be able to access edible forms of marijuana;
- The monthly limit will be raised from 2 ounces to 4 ounces;
- Patients will be able to register at more than one ATC.
Advocates applauded the Department of Health and Governor Murphy for the quick action.
“We want to thank Commissioner Elnahal and Governor Murphy for moving so quickly to expand the New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act,” said Roseanne Scotti, New Jersey state director of the Drug Policy Alliance. “This action will help thousands of patients for whom medical marijuana is the best option for relieving their suffering and improving their quality of life.”
The Drug Policy Alliance led the campaign to pass the New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act and has continued to work to see the program effectively implemented. The Drug Policy Alliance submitted a petition to the state’s Medicinal Marijuana Review Panel in support of adding chronic pain to the list of qualifying conditions.
The New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act was signed by Governor Jon Corzine right before he left office in January 2010 due to advocacy by the Drug Policy Alliance and partners. Then incoming Governor Chris Christie was charged with implementing the law. Patients and advocates have criticized the slow implementation—eight years later the state has only five Alternative Treatment Centers where patients can access medical marijuana—and the burdensome regulations the Christie Administration promulgated.
Having grown up in New York State Clifford Robinson knows firsthand that New York’s cannabis laws are harmful. That is why he advocates so passionately for cannabis reform in the state of New York, including in New York City. Cannabis possession arrest data shows that racial disparities persist in New York City, which is obviously unacceptable. Below is more information about it from our friends at NORML via a press release they issued recently:
New York City police are continuing to disproportionately arrest African Americans and Latinos for minor marijuana possession violations, despite ongoing pledges from Mayor Bill de Blasio to halt the practice.
In 2017, city police made an estimated 17,500 arrests for marijuana possession in the 5th degree – a class B misdemeanor. Consistent with past years, 86 percent of those arrested were either Black or Hispanic.
Since the de Blasio administration took office in 2014, city police have made over 75,000 misdemeanor marijuana possession arrests; 86 percent of arrestees were either Black or Latino.
Under state law, the possession of up to an ounce of cannabis is a non-arrestable offense, except instances where the police contend that the substance was either being burned or was in public view.
While law enforcement officials alleged that the high volume of arrests was a result of citizens’ complaints, a POLITICO.com analysis found no evidence to support that claim.
Despite consuming cannabis at rates comparable to whites, recent analyses of marijuana arrest data from multiple states find that African Americans are consistently arrested for marijuana possession offenses at least three times the rate of Caucasians.
Clifford ‘Uncle Cliffy’ Robinson played for the Detroit Pistons from 2001 to 2003. Robinson enjoyed his time with the team and lived in Michigan long after his playing days with the Pistons were over. He has always loved the state of Michigan and has supported cannabis activists there, which is why he supports the legalization initiative which is working to put legalization on the 2018 ballot.
While living in Michigan Clifford Robinson witnessed the harms of cannabis prohibition firsthand. It’s beyond time that the state of Michigan got on the right side of history and freed the plant. New poll results are out which shows that an overwhelming majority of Michigan voters support cannabis legalization. Below is more information about the timely poll via our friends at Michigan NORML:
Michigan NORML and the EPIC-MRA research group have released the results of their 2018 survey of Michigan voters on marijuana legalization. Michigan voters support marijuana legalization at an all-time high rate of 61%.
The two groups have teamed up to ask the same question at the same time of year via the same company and same methodology in four polls over five years. “That’s up 4 points from the 57% majority voting “yes” in February of 2017, up 8 points from a 53% majority voting “yes” in March of 2016, and up 11 points from a bare 50% majority in 2014,” said pollster Bernie Porn of EPIC-MRA. (See attached graphic)
Michigan NORML Executive Director Matthew Abel was “extremely pleased” to see the results. The big increase in support for marijuana legalization was anticipated by long-time activists and MINORML Board members Rick Thompson and Brad Forrester.
“I’m not surprised. These results are the product of Michigan NORML’s effective advocacy for the past several years,” Forrester said.
“The poll results show support in areas of the state where it is traditionally more difficult to advance marijuana law reforms,” Thompson said. “Michigan’s medical marijuana program has proven to the entire state that cannabis is not something to be feared any more.”
The results are especially promising for the proposal to legalize the adult use of cannabis in Michigan. The Committee to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol submitted more than 360,000 signatures to the state on November 20, 2017 to place the proposal on the 2018 general election ballot. “This poll is a direct measure of public acceptance of that proposal,” Thompson added.
“In 2014 Michigan NORML triangulated a path to legalization,” Forrester stated. “We thought 2020 would be our year but voters seem ready for it now.”
“A growing number of Michiganders realize the failure of marijuana prohibition and the waste of law enforcement resources that has gone along with it. Regulation and taxation is a far better solution and we look forward to giving the voters the opportunity to vote on the issue in November of this year,” said Josh Hovey, spokesperson for the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol.
- men support at 68% and women at 55%
- the greatest regional support comes from the Bay region at 79%. Other regions: Wayne-Oakland-Macomb 59%; outer Metro, 62%; Central, 59%; west, 66% and North at 50%.
- the 18-49 age group supports at 71% while the 50+ age group supports at 54%
- Democrats support legalization at 74%; Independents at 72%; and Republicans are tied at 48/48% support/oppose
Visit the Michigan NORML website to view the pertinent details of the poll results:
Most of the Uncle Cliffy team was born and raised in New York State, with many members of the team still residing there. Clifford Robinson was born and raised in Buffalo, New York where he saw firsthand the failures of cannabis prohibition.
Clifford Robinson was arrested for cannabis possession prior to attending the University of Connecticut. The arrest for a very small amount of cannabis almost derailed Cliff’s basketball playing career before it ever began. Fortunately, things ultimately worked out for Robinson but only after a nightmare scenario in which his entire future was put in jeopardy because of a plant that is 114 times safer than alcohol.
Because of his firsthand experiences, and those of other members of the Uncle Cliffy team, Clifford Robinson passionately advocates for cannabis reform in New York State. New York State is now going to be bordered by two states (Vermont and Massachusetts) and likely one country (Canada) that will have passed measures to end cannabis prohibition.
New Jersey, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania are also in the midst of discussions and efforts to end cannabis prohibition, which put further pressure on New York State lawmakers to step up and get their state on the right side of history. Such a move would be supported by a majority of New York State voters, per a recent poll conducted by Siena College. Per the poll:
“With strong support from Democrats and independents, and support from every region, by a 56-40 percent margin, New Yorkers support legalizing the recreational use of marijuana,” Greenberg said. “Voters 55 and older are closely divided, while three-quarters of voters under 35 support legalization.”
The Siena College poll was not the first to find majority support for cannabis legalization in New York State. A poll from late last year, conducted by Emerson College and commissioned by the Marijuana Policy Project Foundation and the Drug Policy Alliance, found that 62% of New York State voters approve of cannabis legalization.
The difference between the two poll results is close enough that it can be explained by a number of factors, and should not be seen as demonstrating that support for legalization in New York is decreasing. With legalization efforts occurring on all sides of New York State’s borders, and legalization succeeding in other parts of the country, the Uncle Cliffy team expects to see support for legalization in New York State to increase in the future. Free the plant New York!
Clifford ‘Uncle Cliffy’ Robinson played for the New Jersey Nets from 2005-2007 and was a longtime resident of the state. Cliff witnessed firsthand the failures of cannabis prohibition in New Jersey, which is why he supports cannabis legalization efforts that are currently underway in the Garden State.
New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy has called for cannabis legalization on a number of occasions, and polling is very favorable for adult-use legalization in New Jersey. However, a lot of hard work is ahead in order to free the plant in New Jersey. Nothing is a guarantee, which is why New Jersey residents need to contact their lawmakers.
Fortunately, there are a lot of amazing freedom fighters on the ground in New Jersey fighting very hard to get New Jersey on the right side of history. Below is more information via our friends at the Drug Policy Alliance. Please get involved if you are able:
Congress and numerous states are moving to legalize marijuana this year, building on positive outcomes in Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon, Washington state, and Washington, D.C. In Vermont, Governor Phil Scott is expected to sign the state’s marijuana legalization bill today, making it the 9th state to legalize marijuana – and the first to do so via state legislature – in a rebuke to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who rescinded Obama-era guidance this month allowing states to implement their own marijuana laws with limited federal interference.
On Tuesday, a new report by the Drug Policy Alliance, From Prohibition to Progress: A Status Report on Marijuana Legalization, will show how and why marijuana legalization is working so far.
On Tuesday, January 23 at 1pm (ET) / 10am (PT), DPA will host a press teleconference to discuss the report’s findings with key policymakers and elected officials:
- Roseanne Scotti, New Jersey State Director, Drug Policy Alliance (moderator)
- Jolene Forman, Staff Attorney, Drug Policy Alliance (report author)
- Reggie Jones-Sawyer, California State Assembly Member and author of the Legal Cannabis Protection Act
- Colorado State Representative Jonathan Singer
- Shaleen Title, Commissioner, Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission
Members of the press are invited to join Tuesday’s teleconference. Please contact Tony Newman for call-in info.: 646-335-5384
From Prohibition to Progress finds that states are saving money and protecting the public by comprehensively regulating marijuana for adult use. There have been dramatic decreases in marijuana arrests and convictions, saving states millions of dollars and preventing the criminalization of thousands of people.
Marijuana legalization is having a positive effect on public health and safety. Youth marijuana use has remained stable in states that have legalized. Access to legal marijuana is associated with reductions in some of the most troubling harms associated with opioid use, including opioid overdose deaths and untreated opioid use disorders. DUI arrests for driving under the influence, of alcohol and other drugs, have declined in Colorado and Washington, the first two states to legalize marijuana. At the same time, states are exceeding their marijuana revenue estimates and filling their coffers with hundreds of millions of dollars.
“Marijuana criminalization and enforcement have been a massive waste of money and have unequally harmed Black and Latino communities,” says Jolene Forman, staff attorney at the Drug Policy Alliance. “This report shows that marijuana legalization is working. States are effectively protecting public health and safety through comprehensive regulations. Now more states should build on the successes of marijuana legalization and advance policies to repair the racially disparate harms of the war on drugs.”
Roseanne Scotti, New Jersey State Director for Drug Policy Alliance states that the report provides strong support for New Jersey’s efforts to legalize marijuana. “This report answers the questions that elected officials and the public have been asking about how marijuana legalization has worked in other states,” says Scotti. “The findings are extremely positive and provide important lessons on how New Jersey can structure its marijuana legalization law so that it will be fair and equitable and provide benefits for all New Jersey residents.” The Drug Policy Alliance has launched a campaign to legalize, tax and regulate marijuana in New Jersey.
The report’s key findings include:
Marijuana arrests are down. Arrests for marijuana in all legal marijuana states and Washington, D.C. have plummeted, saving states hundreds of millions of dollars and sparing thousands of people from being branded with lifelong criminal records.
- The total number of low-level marijuana court filings in Washington fell by 98 percent between 2011 and 2015.
- The total number of marijuana‐related court filings in Colorado declined by 81 percent between 2012 and 2015, and marijuana possession charges dropped by 88 percent.
- In Washington, D.C., marijuana arrests decreased 76 percent from 2013 to 2016, with possession arrests falling by 98.6 percent.
- In Oregon, the number of marijuana arrests declined by 96 percent from 2013 to 2016.
- In Alaska, the number of marijuana arrests for possession and sales/manufacturing declined by 93 percent from 2013 to 2015.
Youth marijuana use is stable. Youth marijuana use rates have remained stable in states that have legalized marijuana for adults age 21 and older.
- In Washington, Colorado and Alaska, rates of marijuana use among high school students largely resemble national rates. These results are promising, suggesting that fears of widespread increases in use have not come to fruition.
- In Oregon, Nevada, California, Maine, Massachusetts and Washington, D.C., marijuana regulatory programs are not yet established or are so new that they are unlikely to have affected youth use rates in an immediately measurable way. While rates of use vary widely in these states, they have mostly stabilized or declined over the years leading up to legalization.
Marijuana legalization is linked to lower rates of opioid-related harm. Increased access to legal marijuana has been associated with reductions in some of the most troubling harms associated with opioids, including opioid overdose deaths and untreated opioid use disorders.
- In states with medical marijuana access, overdose death rates are almost 25 percent lower than in states with no legal access to marijuana, and the reductions in overdose death rates strengthened over time.
- Legal access to medical marijuana has been associated with a 23 percent reduction in opioid dependence or abuse-related hospitalizations and 15 percent fewer opioid treatment admissions.
- An analysis of opioid overdose deaths in Colorado found that after marijuana was legalized for adult use there was a reduction of 0.7 deaths per month in the state and that the decades-long upward trend of overdoses began to decline after 2014, the first year of marijuana retail sales in the state.
Calls to poison control centers and visits to emergency departments for marijuana exposure remain relatively uncommon.
- In Oregon, less than one percent of calls to the state’s poison centers in 2016 were related to marijuana exposure.
- In Colorado, less than one tenth of one percent (0.04 percent) of the state’s 2.3 million emergency department visits in 2014 were for marijuana exposure.
Legalization has not made our roads less safe.
- DUI arrests are down in Colorado and Washington. The total number of arrests for driving under the influence, of alcohol and other drugs, has declined in Colorado and Washington, the first two states to regulate marijuana for adult use.
- There is no correlation between marijuana legalization and crash rates. The crash rates in both states are statistically similar to comparable states without legal marijuana.
Marijuana tax revenues are exceeding initial estimates. Marijuana sales in Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Alaska, and most recently in Nevada, began slowly as consumers and regulators alike adjusted to new systems. Once up and running, however, overall sales and tax revenue in each state quickly exceeded initial estimates. (Sales in California started on January 1, 2018, and no data are available yet. Sales in Massachusetts will not begin until July 2018. Sales in Maine are on hold pending approval of an implementation bill for the state’s regulated marijuana program. In D.C. no retail cultivation, manufacturing or sales are permitted at this time.)
- Marijuana sales in Washington generated $315 million in tax revenues in the 2016-17 fiscal year.
- Marijuana sales have generated almost $600 million for Colorado since sales began on January 1, 2014.
- By the end of the 2016-17 fiscal year, Oregon collected $70 million, more than double the predicted revenue.
States are allocating marijuana tax revenues for social good.
- Colorado distributed $230 million to the Colorado Department of Education between 2015 and 2017 to fund school construction, early literacy, bullying prevention, and behavioral health.
- Oregon allocates 40 percent of marijuana tax revenue to its state school fund, depositing $34 million into the fund so far. The state also distributes 20 percent to alcohol and drug treatment.
- Nevada’s 15 percent wholesale tax is projected to bring in $56 million over the next two years to fund state schools.
- Washington dedicates 25 percent to substance use disorder treatment, education and prevention. The state also distributes 55 percent of its marijuana tax revenues to fund basic health plans.
- Alaska will collect an estimated $12 million annually, which will fund drug treatment and community residential centers.
- California and Massachusetts will invest a share of their marijuana tax revenues in the communities most adversely impacted by drug arrests and incarceration, particularly low-income communities of color, to help repair the harms of unequal drug law enforcement.
The marijuana industry is creating jobs. Preliminary estimates suggest that the legal marijuana industry employs between 165,000 to 230,000 full and part-time workers across the country. This number will only continue to grow as more states legalize marijuana and replace their unregulated markets with new legal markets.
The report also includes considerations for policymakers and advocates going forward:
We need to foster equity in the marijuana industry. The communities most harmed by marijuana criminalization have struggled to overcome the many barriers to participation in the legal industry. Some states and cities, however, are implementing rules to help increase equity and reduce barriers to entry in the marijuana industry.
- Massachusetts is adopting rules aimed at ensuring that people most harmed by marijuana criminalization can participate in the regulated market.
- In California, a prior drug felony cannot be the sole basis for denying a marijuana license. This mitigates the harms to low-income, Black, and Latino people who have borne decades of disproportionate arrests and convictions for marijuana offenses.
We need to reduce racial disparities and reform police practices. While marijuana legalization dramatically reduces the number of people arrested for marijuana offenses, it clearly does not end racially disparate policing. Police practices must be reformed to fully remedy the unequal enforcement of marijuana laws. It is widely documented that there are vast racial disparities in the enforcement of marijuana laws. Black and Latino people are far more likely to be arrested for marijuana offenses than white people, despite similar rates of use and sales across racial groups.
We need to establish safe places for people to use marijuana. Consuming marijuana in public is illegal in all jurisdictions that have legalized marijuana for adults 21 and older. It is a misdemeanor in Nevada and Washington, D.C., and a civil penalty subject to fines and fees in all other states. This means that people who lack the means to pay the fines and fees, or those without homes or in federally-subsidized housing, risk being jailed for consuming a lawful substance. Public use violations are also disproportionately enforced against people of color, particularly Black people.
We need to promote marijuana decriminalization and penalty reductions for youth and young adults. In several states, marijuana legalization has had the unintended consequence of reducing historically high numbers of youth (under 18 years of age) and young adults (between 18 and 20 years old) stopped and arrested for marijuana offenses. However, these reductions are inconsistent from state-to-state. In some circumstances, youth now comprise a growing number of people charged with marijuana offenses. California’s approach is too new to be evaluated, but it appears to be a good step toward reducing youth and young adults’ risk of criminal justice involvement for marijuana-related conduct:
- In California, youth under the age of 18 may only be charged with civil infractions for marijuana offenses. They are no longer threatened with incarceration or financial penalties. Instead, they are required to attend drug awareness education, counseling, or community service.
- All marijuana offenses will be automatically expunged from a young person’s record when they turn 18.
- The penalties for most marijuana-related activities were either decriminalized or reduced for young adults 18-to-20 years old.