The authors caution that while these findings are predictive–meaning couples who smoke are less likely to commit domestic violence–they don’t necessarily draw a causal line between the two behaviors. Among the connections they hypothesize, “marijuana may increase positive affect, which in turn could reduce the likelihood of conflict and aggression.” …
Another possible mechanism: “chronic [marijuana] users exhibit blunted emotional reaction to threat stimuli, which may also decrease the likelihood of aggressive behavior.”
The second study, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, reported that states with medical marijuana laws have roughly 25% fewer painkiller overdose deaths than states which do not allow medical marijuana. While the authors caution that this could simply be a correlation, not a causal effect, a large amount of anecdotal research exists from patients who report weening or discontinuing their use of prescription painkillers once they are able to use marijuana to treat their conditions.
On Monday, respected policy think tank The Brookings Institutionpublished a paper analyzing Washington’s implementation of the law passed in 2012 to regulate marijuana similarly to alcohol. The results: the state is doing well and is actively trying to learn from the process. The results could have far-reaching implications for marijuana policy reform in other states.
Brookings’ Philip Wallach interviewed advocates, researchers, and government policymakers in Washington to learn about the state’s novel approach. In this report, he highlights several noteworthy features:
Building a funding source for research directly into the law: a portion of the excise tax revenues from marijuana sales will fund research on the reform’s effects and on how its social costs can be effectively mitigated.
Bringing to bear many perspectives on legalization by coordinating research efforts across multiple state agencies, including the Department of Social and Health Services, the Department of Health, and the Liquor Control Board.
Mandating a cost-benefit analysis by the state’s in-house think tank, which will be nearly unprecedented in its scope and duration.
Wallach makes a number of suggestions to ensure that Washington’s knowledge experiment can be made to work, including:
Ensure political independence for researchers, both by pressuring politicians to allow them to do their work and by encouraging the researchers themselves to refrain from making political recommendations
Gather and translate research into forms usable by policymakers
Counter misinformation with claims of confident uncertainty
Have realistic expectations about the timeline for empirical learning, which means cultivating patience over the next few years
Specify which reliable metrics would indicate success or failure of legalization
As the Aug. 26 Vermont primary election approaches, it’s clear that momentum for ending marijuana prohibition in Vermont continues to build. Governor Shumlin’s administration is currently working with the Rand Corporation to study the potential impacts of marijuana regulation, and many legislators are already convinced that marijuana should be treated similarly to alcohol.
Voting for favorable candidates is one important way to advance the issue, but we know that supporting good candidates is rarely enough to create real change on its own. We understand that it will take an organized, statewide effort to build support for this reform.
According to preliminary data from the state’s biennial Healthy Kids Colorado Survey, in 2013 – the first full year the drug was legal for adults 21 and older – 20 percent of high school students admitted using pot in the preceding month and 37 percent said they had at some point in their lives.
The survey’s 2011 edition found 22 percent of high school students used the drug in the past month and 39 percent had ever sampled it.
It’s unclear if the year-to-year decline represents a statistically significant change, but data from 2009 suggests a multiyear downward trend. That year 25 percent of high school kids said they used pot in the past month and 45 percent said they had ever done so.
A working paper published late last month by the National Bureau of Economic Research also concluded there is no causal relationship between medical marijuana laws and increases in teen marijuana use. According to the researchers, “Our results are not consistent with the hypothesis that legalization leads to increased use of marijuana by teenagers.”
The report, authored by John Hudak, a Brookings fellow in Governance Studies, determined that “the state has met challenging statutory and constitutional deadlines for the construction and launch of a legal, regulatory, and tax apparatus for its new policy. In doing so, it has made intelligent decisions about regulatory needs, the structure of distribution, prevention of illegal diversion, and other vital aspects of its new market. It has made those decisions in concert with a wide variety of stakeholders in the state.”
More and more evidence is showing that states can, and should, regulate marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol. As an increasing number of Americans decide that they are sick of arresting adults for using marijuana responsibly, the lessons from the states that have regulated marijuana successfully will become even more important.