Jan 162015
 January 16, 2015

vermont marijuana decriminalizationLegalizing recreational marijuana production, distribution and possession in Vermont could generate significant tax revenues, but also involves costs and important decisions about how best to regulate the substance, according to a new RAND Corporation study.

The report makes clear that if Vermont chooses to remove its prohibition on producing and selling marijuana, lawmakers will have many choices to make about who will supply it, who can buy it, if and how it will be taxed, and how it will be regulated.

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

The RAND report provides the most-detailed accounting available about the wide number of issues that face state officials — in Vermont and elsewhere — when considering alternatives to traditional marijuana prohibition.

“Our conversation about whether to legalize marijuana must be rooted in facts and be transparent about the uncertainties. This RAND report will serve as a critical foundation for our ongoing discussion about the best course for Vermont,” said Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin. “I continue to support moves to legalize marijuana in Vermont but have always said that we have to proceed with rigorous research and preparation before deciding whether to act. This report will help us do that.”

In May 2014, Shumlin signed Act 155 that required the state’s secretary of administration to produce a report about the various benefits and consequences of legalizing marijuana. The RAND report was produced for the administration in response to that legislation.

The study examines several supply models that Vermont lawmakers may wish to explore — from permitting those aged 21 and older to grow marijuana for their own use to regulating supply through nonprofit or for-profit corporations, or through a governmental entity. The report also profiles numerous marijuana regulations that could be imposed, such as a THC ceiling on products, a ban on fruit flavors and marijuana-infused candies, mandatory child-resistant packaging, age restrictions on sellers and purchasers, price floors, and a ban on self-service displays, among others.

“It is a false dichotomy to think about marijuana policy in terms of choosing either prohibition or the for-profit commercial model we see in Colorado and Washington,” said Beau Kilmer, project leader and co-director of RAND’s Drug Policy Research Center. “Jurisdictions considering alternatives to prohibition could limit supply to home production, cooperatives, nonprofit organizations, socially responsible businesses, a public authority or even a state monopoly.”

The report estimates that during 2014, Vermont residents likely consumed between 15 metric tons and 25 metric tons of marijuana, and spent between $125 million and $225 million on marijuana. RAND researchers estimate that state and local governments in Vermont now spend less than $1 million each year enforcing current marijuana laws on those aged 21 and older, while regulatory costs associated with legalizing production and retail sales of marijuana would likely exceed that level.

If Vermont legalized marijuana, taxed the product aggressively, suppressed its black market, and consumption increased, tax revenues from sales to Vermont residents could be in the tens of millions of dollars annually, according to the report.

In addition to impacts in the state, legalizing marijuana in Vermont also could have implications for neighboring states. There are nearly 40 times as many regular marijuana users living within 200 miles outside of Vermont’s borders as there are living inside Vermont, according to the report.

Vermont could therefore end up supplying large numbers of out-of-state users, directly via tourism or indirectly. This would vastly increase the potential revenue to the state, unless other states in the Northeast also legalized marijuana, researchers say. At that point, the flow of revenue to Vermont from marijuana legalization would depend on whether surrounding states imposed lower taxes, which would not only cut the revenue from out-of-state visitors but also undermine revenues from taxing Vermont’s own residents.

The report also warns that cross-border commerce could prompt a federal government response, making all revenue projections highly uncertain.

The report reviews evidence on the public health consequences of marijuana consumption and prohibition, including both the harms and the benefits. The scientific literature identifies some clear acute and chronic health effects, especially of persistent heavy marijuana use. Acute risks include accidents, impaired cognitive functioning while intoxicated, as well as anxiety, dysphoria and panic.

“There are pros and cons to all marijuana policy options, and there is tremendous uncertainty about how different forms of legalization will affect public health and safety,” said Jonathan Caulkins, a report coauthor and the Stever Professor of Operations Research and Public Policy at Carnegie Mellon University. “Much will depend on how any marijuana policy change influences the use of other substances such as tobacco, alcohol and prescription opiates.”

Longer-term risks of persistent heavy marijuana use include dependence and bronchitis. Some evidence suggests other serious risks for heavy marijuana users, particularly with psychotic symptoms, cardiovascular disease and male testicular cancers.

“While marijuana use is strongly correlated with many adverse outcomes, it is much harder to ascertain whether marijuana use causes those outcomes,” said Robert MacCoun, a report coauthor and a professor at Stanford School of Law.

For example, with respect to the ongoing debate about whether marijuana use has long-term effects on intelligence quotient, MacCoun said it is premature to argue that long-term cognitive impairment has been clearly established, but just as premature to argue that the risks are nonexistent.

RAND’s 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.

Other authors of the report include Mark Kleiman of UCLA and BOTEC Analysis Corporation, Gregory Midgette and Rosalie Liccardo Pacula of RAND, Pat Oglesby of the Center for New Revenue, and Peter Reuter of the University of Maryland.

The report, “Considering Marijuana Legalization: Insights for Vermont and Other Jurisdictions,” is available at www.rand.org.

Since 1989, the RAND Drug Policy Research Center has conducted research to help policymakers 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 an often emotional and fractious policy arena.

Source: RAND Corp

Comments

comments

About Johnny Green

Dissenting opinions are welcome, insults and personal attacks are discouraged and hate speech will not be tolerated. Spammers and people trying to buy or sell cannabis or any drugs will be banned. Read our comment policy and FAQ for more information

  14 Responses to “Vermont Governor Endorses Marijuana Legalization, RAND Study Released”

  1.  

    ““It is a false dichotomy to think about marijuana policy in terms of choosing either prohibition or the for-profit commercial model we see in Colorado and Washington,” said Beau Kilmer, project leader and co-director of RAND’s Drug Policy Research Center. “Jurisdictions considering alternatives to prohibition could limit supply to home production, cooperatives, nonprofit organizations, socially responsible businesses, a public authority or even a state monopoly.”

    I always have a problem when I see someone even suggest a state monopoly. If that go that path, it will surely fail.

    •  

      The state monopoly model is already used in many states with regard to alcohol sales. Not that I am for it, just saying it is a model that some states very well may adopt. In his book, After Legalization: Understanding the future of marijuana policy,
      Jon Walker describes this scenario and why some states might choose this method. It’s very interesting. The way alcohol sales are impemented varies widely in the US, as is demonstrated with dry counties that exist today. There will be dry counties with weed too, and as long as marijuana legalization is pushed as a states right’s issue, the states hold the power to do whatever.

  2.  

    If Vermont legalized marijuana, taxed the product aggressively, suppressed its black market

    Taxing aggressively and suppressing the black market are contradictory goals.

  3.  

    this report was sorely needed. one of the main arguments opponents use against legal weed is that it will create a “big marijuana” industry. this report offers alternatives to that, thus taking away steam from that argument. also, other states can use this is a framework, not just vermont.

  4.  

    Taxing is a bad idea, it will eventually drive down black market prices and its markets influence will increase. The Law of Unintended consequences.

  5.  

    “Longer-term risks of persistent heavy marijuana use include dependence and bronchitis. Some evidence suggests other serious risks for heavy marijuana users, particularly with psychotic symptoms, cardiovascular disease and male testicular cancers.”

    There isn’t one documented case of a user getting testicular cancer or developing schizophrenia from use. As for dependence, it’s less addictive than coffee, and as for bronchitis, studies have shown that even heavy use does not impair lung function significantly. Cardiovascular disease? You’d think with all the weed smokers in this country, somebody would come forward with some type of serious ailment due to heavy use, yet nobody has. Every one of those studies you see out there have to use words like “may” or “increases risk”.

    Everything the average citizen thinks he knows about Cannabis is factually incorrect. The gateway theory, the a-motivational syndrome, the lung cancer factor, the IQ reduction… it’s all false. It’s all lies and propaganda.

    There’s a plant in this world that we can use to make food, shelter, clothing, medicine, and fuel. We can also make virtually anything we want to with it, and it would all be recyclable and biodegradable. Add to that, when people ingest it, it makes them happy and peaceful, and it prevents disease according to many peer reviewed studies performed by some of the most respected doctors in the world.

    AND IT’S ILLEGAL.

    •  

      If you repeat a lie often enough
      The same people will believe it
      Never made it true

    •  

      I agree 100%. There’s also the part where they say, “Acute risks include accidents, impaired cognitive functioning while intoxicated, as well as anxiety, dysphoria and panic.” I’m pretty sure there have been studies to prove that marijuana use helps with anxiety. I, myself, am living proof of that.

  6.  

    Propaganda depends on misinformation
    The genie is out of the
    Bottle and they panic!
    Cannabis has science to back ut up

  7.  

    If politicians had any sense (quite a stretch)), they would all, in every state yet to legalize, read the report closely and develop a contingency plan. Legalization is inevitable and while politicians are diddling with their heads up their asses they could, instead, have set ideas on how to proceed ahead of time.

    The Supreme Court has just agreed to consider same sex marriages at the national level. Can marijuana legalization be far behind?

  8.  

    It’s time for the marijuana legalization community to insist that equal research and prohibition be levied on alcohol and tobacco. If we start signing massive petitions that insist that alcohol and tobacco immediately be made illegal to consumers due to the PROVEN dangers of these substances, and push hard, the remaining opponents of marijuana will get a huge wake-up call. If insistence on legalization of marijuana, not in five years, BUT IMMEDIATELY, is opposed then we have to insist that the PROVEN statistics of the dangers and costs of alcohol and tobacco use demand the immediate prohibition of alcohol and tobacco. Legalization will happen if the alcoholics who kill people while driving drunk and the cancer ridden smokers who cost the insurance companies and hospitals billions of dollars realize they might just lose their right to consume their alcohol and/or tobacco. Let’s put the consumers of alcohol and tobacco on notice. Either stop the prohibition of marijuana immediately or be prepared to suffer the same fate as those who want to ingest marijuana for their health and relaxation.
    A simple and concise report of the dangers and costs of the use of alcohol and tobacco should be easy to compile and would show that compared to marijuana use alcohol and tobacco are as dangerous as heroin.
    One other issue we should be INSISTING on is the immediate drug testing of our elected representatives and all other high government officers and officials.
    If we just wait or continue to give credence to the current marijuana prohibition efforts as they bump and stall then those of us denied the desperately needed medical and relaxation benefits of this absolutely harmless and diverse plant may experience the slow reversal of any progress made for rescheduling and legalization of marijuana.
    It’s time to directly confront the hypocracy and corruption of the Federal government and demand a return to representation by, of and for the electorate. The days of special interests are either going to be ended by the people or the people are going to be ended by the special interests.
    Although I welcome discussion I will not respond to any name calling or misrepresentation of facts by anyone who pretends to know what they cannot prove.
    What monsters would prohibit the parent or parents of dying children the right to medicine (specifically marijuana) to cure or ease the suffering of a child. One such pompous poltical thug is Christie of New Jersey who has looked directly into the eyes of parents pleading with him to allow them to get their children the proven relief from marijuana, and said NO!
    The US Federal government is also complicit in this denial. It is a slap in the face of every voter because if this is allowed to stand as appropriate then the choices of any voter block could face the same situation for other currently legal drugs.
    Let’s end the abuse of power by our government officials and insist on taking our rights as citizens back.r

  9.  

    If only NY had a governor this smart…such a shame

 Leave a Reply