Researchers from the Cato Institute have published a report suggesting no link between the legalization of recreational cannabis and various public health issues.
The new report builds upon findings from an earlier review of research investigating the effects of cannabis legalization before 2018. That report indicated that state-level legalization of cannabis generally had minor effects on public health and society at large. It did note, however, that state tax revenues from cannabis sales increased significantly.
The new report includes data on states included in the previous report as well as states that have legalized cannabis since 2018. In particular, the report explores the relationship between recreational cannabis legalization and the usage of cannabis and other substances such as cocaine.
All in all, the report found that cannabis usage increased in states following legal reforms. The increased rate of usage, however, was found to be consistent with patterns seen before reforms were put in place.
The report also found no link between legalizing recreational cannabis and cocaine usage. While cocaine usage increased somewhat following cannabis legalization in Oregon, Massachusetts saw the opposite, with other states such as Washington and Maine seeing cocaine usage remain consistent despite cannabis reform.
Concerning road safety, the authors cited research stating that cannabis usage does not affect traffic fatalities in legalizing states, although they acknowledged concerns by some that an increase in cannabis use could impair drivers’ abilities on the road.
The authors further reported that marijuana legalization is linked neither to a significant increase or decrease in violent crime. While violent crime decreased by 90 and 178 crimes per 100,000 in Maine and Nevada post-legalization, it increased in Alaska and Massachusetts by 152 and 57 crimes per 100,000.
Lastly, while cannabis advocates suggest that cannabis legalization creates cannabis-related jobs, the authors found that employment gains from cannabis legalization are relatively modest. Nevertheless, an increase in tax revenue in various states has been noted, although early gains may be subject to decline as more states legalize the substance. For example, revenues from cannabis on the Washington border declined as Oregon dispensaries opened.