Connect with us

Science & Health

States With More Immigrants Are More Likely To Legalize Marijuana, Study Finds

Published

on

As it becomes increasingly clear that marijuana legalization is not a strictly partisan issue, with surveys showing growing, bipartisan support for reform from across the political spectrum, questions remain as to what factors shape momentum toward enacting state cannabis laws.

A study recently published in the journal Contemporary Drug Problems offers some answers. Researchers looked at each state’s marijuana laws and analyzed their political, demographic, economic and social characteristics to identify various trends associated with legalization.

Specifically, they wanted to know whether there were statistically significant differences among states that were early or late adopters of medical cannabis laws or adult-use legalization as compared to non-legal states. The results indicate that differences do exist, often in ways that might not be apparent at first glance.

Here are some of the main trends identified in the study:

—Compared to non-legal states, those that have legalized marijuana for medical or adult-use (regardless of when they legalized) had larger immigrant populations. For example, states with recreational cannabis had almost two times as many immigrants as non-legal states, 12.3 percent vs. 6.8 percent of the population, on average.

—There were some interesting divides in terms of religious affiliation among states with different marijuana policies.  States that were early adopters of medical cannabis have more people who identify as Catholic. Non-legal states have more Evangelical Protestants on average. And both recreational marijuana and early-adopter medical cannabis states have more people who claimed no religious affiliation compared to non-legal states.

—Politically, 77 percent of states that were quicker to legalize medical marijuana had legislatures controlled by Democrats in 2014. That trend was even more pronounced in states with adult-use legalization, where 82 percent of legislatures were Democratic-controlled. When it came to late adopters of medical cannabis, however, nine out of 10 states that legalized after 2014 had Republican-controlled legislatures.

—Voters in states that legalized for medical or recreational purposes were more likely to be approving of same-sex marriage compared to non-legal states (a range of 55-61 percent versus 44 percent on average, respectively).

—When it came to gun policy, there were no statistically significant differences in the prevalence of stand-your-ground or concealed carry laws across all categories of cannabis states, which “could be accounted for by the different political configurations in more libertarian western states, where personal freedoms are highly valued, including both freedoms to own guns and use marijuana,” the study authors wrote.

The researchers also emphasized that the results of their analysis are correlational in nature, so readers should take the findings with a grain of salt. But the data does raise some interesting points about the nature of states that have legalized marijuana at different levels over time, further demonstrating that support for cannabis policy reform is about much more than partisan politics.

Independent Voters Support Marijuana Legalization, Regardless Of Partisan Lean, Poll Shows

Photo courtesy of Philip Steffan.

Marijuana Moment is made possible with support from readers. If you rely on our cannabis advocacy journalism to stay informed, please consider a monthly Patreon pledge.

Science & Health

Marijuana Legalization Doesn’t Cause Increased Crime, Federally Funded Study Finds

Published

on

Legalizing marijuana has little to no impact on rates of violent or property crime, according to a new study that was funded by a federal agency. The policy change did seem connected to a long-term decline in burglaries in one state, however.

While previous attempts to understand the relationship between legal cannabis markets and crime have turned up mixed results, researchers involved in this study used an enhanced methodology—a “quasi-experimental, multi-group interrupted time-series design”—to produce stronger evidence.

The study, published in the journal Justice Quarterly and funded by the federal National Institute of Justice, found that violent and property crimes rates were not affected in a statistically significant way in the years after Colorado and Washington State became the first in the nation to legalize marijuana for adult use.

“Our results suggest that marijuana legalization and sales have had minimal to no effect on major crimes in Colorado or Washington,” the paper concluded. “We observed no statistically significant long-term effects of recreational cannabis laws or the initiation of retail sales on violent or property crime rates in these states.”

The study authors explicitly cited claims made by prohibitionist group Smart Approaches to Marijuana and author Alex Berenson as being contradicted by their findings.

To determine the impact of legalization, researchers designed experimental models that compared crime rates in Colorado and Washington to those in 21 non-legal states from 1999 to 2016. The analysis was based on FBI data on violent, property, aggravated assault, auto theft, burglary, larceny and robbery crime rates.

Following legalization, there were one-time increases in property crime in the two states, as well as a spike in aggravated assault in Washington, but those did not reflect long-term trends, “suggesting that if marijuana legalization influenced crime, it was short-lived,” the study authors wrote.

Via Justice Quarterly.

Via Justice Quarterly.

There was one statistically significant long-term impact that the researchers did attribute to state marijuana laws: The burglary rate in Washington decreased, and that trend has held.

Via Justice Quarterly.

Via Justice Quarterly.

It’s not immediately clear why that is the case, and the study’s conclusion encourages future research that replicates and refines the design used for this experiment to solve answered questions.

“In summary, our results suggest that there may have been some immediate increases in crime at the point of legalization, yet there have been essentially no longterm shifts in crime rates because of legalization, aside from a decline in Burglary in Washington. Though the short-term increases might appear to suggest that marijuana increased crime, we caution against this interpretation as the increases do not reflect permanent shifts (that is, these are shifts in intercepts, not slopes) and could be artificially induced by the small number of time units between legalization and sales.”

Dale Willits, a study coauthor, said in a press release that in light of the “nationwide debate about legalization, the federal classification of cannabis under the Controlled Substances Act, and the consequences of legalization for crime continues, it is essential to center that discussion on studies that use contextualized and robust research designs with as few limitations as possible.”

“This is but one study and legalization of marijuana is still relatively new, but by replicating our findings, policymakers can answer the question of how legalization affects crime,” he said.

Study authors also noted that their analysis did not take into account other crimes such as drug impaired driving.

“Given the likelihood of further liberalization of state and even federal marijuana laws, it is imperative that policy makers and research funders allocate the necessary resources to conduct these more rigorous and intensive types of contextualized studies,” they concluded. “Large-scale policy shifts can take a considerable amount of time to produce stable and understandable effects.”

This is the second recent study that’s received Justice Department funding and arrived at a conclusion that runs against the logic of prohibition. Another example looked at the impact of legalization on law enforcement resources and trafficking trends.

Study Funded By Feds Debunks Myths About Marijuana Legalization’s Alleged Harms

Marijuana Moment is made possible with support from readers. If you rely on our cannabis advocacy journalism to stay informed, please consider a monthly Patreon pledge.
Continue Reading

Science & Health

Pilot Study Shows Marijuana Can Help Chronic Pain Patients Stop Taking Opioids

Published

on

When chronic pain patients participated in a program to reduce their use of opioids with medical marijuana, a quarter of them completely stopped taking opioid medications within half a year, a new pilot study reports.

“After 6 months, 156 patients (26%) had ceased taking opioids,” the paper states. “An additional 329 patients (55%) had reduced their opioid use by an average of 30%. One hundred fourteen patients (19%) neither increased nor decreased their opioid use.”

The study, led by Toronto-based chronic pain specialist Dr. Kevin Rod, was published in American Journal of Psychiatry and Neuroscience.

Research shows that marijuana can help patients with pain. In fact, when states legalize access to marijuana, the rates of opioid-related deaths and opioid prescriptions for pain decline.

For his pilot study, Rod recruited 600 chronic pain patients who received care at his practice, Toronto Poly Clinic. Their daily opioid doses averaged 120mg morphine equivalent; among the sample, 95 patients were taking between 180mg to 240mg a day to manage their pain.

Rod created a tapering plan for each patient based on their individual needs. Usually, that meant opioid doses were reduced approximately 10 percent every one to two weeks. As the study’s participants lowered the dosage of pharmaceuticals they were taking to deal with pain, they were authorized to consume CBD and THC products in the range of 4 to 6 percent. The cannabis doses were related to the amount of opioids were tapered: that is, half a gram of marijuana a day for each 10 percent reduction in opioid dose as needed. To reduce the risk of additional harm, patients were advised to consume sublingually, orally or by vaping.

Additionally, patients received psychological support via a web-based mental health tool called Zendose, and were monitored regularly by physicians. During their visits to the clinic, patients were assessed for pain, quality of life, whether tapering appeared to be effective, and if there were any withdrawal symptoms, among other things.

Six months after beginning the program, 156 patients were weaned off opioids completely, while more than half of the sample (329) had reduced their intake by an average of 30 percent. These patients reported consuming 1 to 3 grams of cannabis per day. Nineteen percent (114), however, were unable to reduce the amount of opioids they were taking, though they also did not increase their dosage either. One participant did increase their opioid dosage due to “poorly controlled pain and an aggravated pain condition,” the study states. “With that one exception, all patients expressed satisfaction with their pain control, sleep and quality of life. No opioid withdrawal symptoms were noted in follow-up appointments.”

“This [Medical Cannabis – Opioid Reduction Program] pilot study outlines a patient-centered approach, with an individualized program for tapering opioid use,” the study concludes. “The positive results justify further investigation.”

Last year, Rod was a speaker at the World Cannabis Congress in New Brunswick. There, he advocated for the use of cannabis as a tool in the opioid crisis. “As front line fighters in the fight against pain,” he said, “we’re always looking for new ways to treat or manage chronic pain, and it’s not very often that we have a new solution.”

After Legalizing Marijuana, Colorado Saw ‘Significant Decrease’ In Opioid Prescriptions, Study Finds

Photo courtesy of Get Budding.

Marijuana Moment is made possible with support from readers. If you rely on our cannabis advocacy journalism to stay informed, please consider a monthly Patreon pledge.
Continue Reading

Politics

Study Funded By Feds Debunks Myths About Marijuana Legalization’s Alleged Harms

Published

on

The Department of Justice paid for a new study on the impact of marijuana legalization that ended up showing cannabis programs do not seem to negatively affect neighboring, non-legal states.

The paper’s authors said they sought to answer three questions in these analysis of state-level data: 1) How does legalization impact law enforcement resources in legal states? 2) How does it impact those resources in bordering, non-legal states? and 3) What does legalizing cannabis mean for drug trafficking?

To assess the impact, the researchers looked at statistics on drug possession and distribution arrests in a mix of legalized states and nearby ones that maintained prohibition. According to that data, legalization didn’t cause the sky to fall.

“Legalizing marijuana did not have a noticeable impact on indicators in states that bordered those that legalized,” the study concluded, adding that “there were no noticeable indications of an increase in arrests related to transportation or trafficking offenses in states along the northern or southern borders.”

That is evidently a finding that the Justice Department does not want the public to think it endorses. At the beginning of the report—and on every other page—there’s a disclaimer stressing that while federal funds were used to support the research, “[o]pinions or points of view expressed are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.”

Here’s what the study authors, who are affiliated with the Justice Research and Statistics Association, found:

Not surprisingly, arrests for marijuana possession dropped significantly in Washington after the state legalized cannabis in 2012. Those arrests continued to drop after retails sales became available. Distribution arrests followed a similar trend.

Via NCJRS.

Via NCJRS.

There was less data on Oregon at the time of the study in 2015, as the state legalized the previous year. However, the statistics showed that during “the post-legalization period, arrests for marijuana possession, already low, dropped to close to zero.” Cannabis distribution charges in the state also followed a downward trend.

Via NCJRS.

Via NCJRS.

The researchers then looked at neighboring states that did not legalize. While cannabis accounted for the vast majority of drug possession arrests in Oklahoma, where cannabis is still prohibited for adult use, the arrest rate dipped marginally during the post-legalization years in Colorado from 2012 to 2014.

Via NCJRS.

Arrests for sales and manufacturing of cannabis in Oklahoma also dropped in that timeframe, with the exception of a small spike in 2013.

Via NCJRS.

Arrests for possession “increased from 2003 to 2008, but did not change much from 2009 to 2013 (except for a slight increase in 2012)” in Nebraska.

Via NCJRS.

The findings from Nebraska and Oklahoma are particularly notable since those two states sued Colorado over its marijuana legalization law in 2014, alleging that it effectively polluted their jurisdictions with illegal cannabis. The Supreme Court declined to take the case, and the new study seems to undermine the prohibitionist states’ claims about the impact their neighbor’s legalization law had across their borders.

“No noticeable change in the trend line for marijuana occurred after recreational use was legalized in Colorado,” the study authors said of data on possession convictions in Kansas from 2011 to 2014.

Via NCJRS.

Finally, the researchers looked at drug trafficking trends in Idaho, where cannabis is not legal, and Washington state.

Trafficking arrests actually increased significantly in 2012 and 2013, but at the same time, the number of cases that were ultimately dismissed far outpaced those that ended in a guilty plea in the post-legalization period.

Via NCJRS.

Via NCJRS.

In Washington, seizures of marijuana plummeted after the state legalized cannabis. Those seizures continued to drop, with the exception of a significant spike in January 2014.

Via NCJRS.

The researchers supplemented their report with interviews with several law enforcement officials. Despite the data-based findings on arrest rates for possession, distribution and seizures, police broadly expressed anecdotal concerns about issues such as perceived increases in youth usage, THC potency, drug-impaired driving and an influx in out-of-state visitors that have taxed their departments.

Colorado-based interviewees apparently indicated that the increased availability in higher potency THC products has mitigated the influence of Mexican drug cartels. However, Oregon respondents “reported that Russian and Afghani groups who steal crops and cash from local growers are now heavily involved in drug trafficking.”

After discussing the data limitations of the study, the authors concluded that “it indeed seems to be the case that legalizing the recreational use of marijuana results in fewer marijuana related arrests and court cases” and that while law enforcement sources voiced various concerns, several “indicated that methamphetamine and heroin were much larger problems for their agencies than was marijuana.”

The team “saw no evidence that marijuana legalization had an impact on indicators in border states,” adding that they “found no indications of increases in arrests related to transportation/trafficking offenses.”

“Again, it is possible that different indicators, examined over a longer period of time, might reveal impacts of marijuana legalization on drug trafficking,” they wrote.

Majority Of Americans Support Decriminalizing All Drugs, Poll Finds

Photo courtesy of Kimberly Lawson.

Marijuana Moment is made possible with support from readers. If you rely on our cannabis advocacy journalism to stay informed, please consider a monthly Patreon pledge.
Continue Reading
Advertisement

Stay Up To The Moment

Marijuana News In Your Inbox


Support Marijuana Moment

Marijuana News In Your Inbox

Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!