Considering Marijuana Legalization: Insights for Vermont and Other Jurisdictions

Considering Marijuana Legalization: Insights for Vermont and Other Jurisdictions

Considering Marijuana Legalization: Insights for Vermont and Other Jurisdictions

Considering Marijuana Legalization: Insights for Vermont and Other Jurisdictions

Synopsis

Marijuana legalization is a controversial and multifaceted issue that is now the subject of serious debate. Since 2012, four U.S. states have passed ballot initiatives to remove prohibition and legalize a for-profit commercial marijuana industry. Voters in Washington, D.C., took the more limited step of passing an initiative to legalize home production and personal possession. In December 2013, Uruguay became the first country to experiment with legalization nationwide. In May 2014, Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin signed a bill into law that required the Secretary of Administration to provide a report about the consequences of legalizing marijuana. This report was produced for the Secretary of Administration in response to that legislation.

The report does not make a recommendation about whether Vermont should change its marijuana laws. The goal is to inform, not sway, discussions about the future of marijuana policy in Vermont and other jurisdictions considering alternatives to traditional marijuana prohibition.

The principal message of the report is that marijuana policy should not be viewed as a binary choice between prohibition and the for-profit commercial model we see in Colorado and Washington. Legalization encompasses a wide range of possible regimes, distinguished along at least four dimensions: the kinds of organizations that are allowed to provide the drug, the regulations under which those organizations operate, the nature of the products that can be distributed, and price. These choices could have profound consequences for health and social well-being, as well as job creation and government revenue.

Excerpt

Marijuana legalization is a controversial and multifaceted issue that is now the subject of serious debate. In May 2014, Governor Peter Shumlin signed Act 155 (S. 247), which required the Secretary of Administration to produce a report about various consequences of legalizing marijuana. This document was prepared for the Secretary of Administration in response to that legislation. It aims to inform the debate in Vermont but does not make a recommendation about whether Vermont should change its marijuana laws. The study was supported by the State of Vermont and by Good Ventures, a philanthropic foundation that makes grants in consultation with GiveWell, an organization that researches charities and advises donors.

RAND Drug Policy Research Center

The RAND Drug Policy Research Center conducts research to help decisionmakers in the United States and throughout the world address issues involving alcohol and other drugs. In doing so, the center brings an objective and data-driven perspective to this often emotional and fractious policy arena.

The center is part of RAND Health and RAND Justice, Infrastructure, and Environment. RAND Health’s mission is to serve as the world’s most trusted source of objective analysis and effective solutions for improving health. It is dedicated to reducing the cost of health care while improving the health of individuals, communities, and populations in the United States and worldwide. RAND Justice, Infrastructure, and Environment is dedicated to improving policy and decisionmaking in a wide range of policy domains, including civil and criminal justice, infrastructure protection and homeland security, transportation and energy policy, and environmental and natural resources policy.

Questions or comments about this report should be sent to the project leader, Beau Kilmer (Beau_Kilmer@rand.org). For more information on the RAND Drug Policy Research Center, see http://www.rand.org/multi/dprc.html or contact the director (dprc@rand.org).

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