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ID: 727

Type of submission: Oral

Conference track: Policy

Topics: Drug Policy Reform and Advocacy

Presenting author: Tamar Todd

Presenting author biography:

Tamar Todd is the legal director at the Drug Policy Alliance. She has co-authored several state and local ballot initiatives and statutes, including Amendment 64 in Colorado and testified in numerous legislative and government bodies on the issue of drug policy and the intersection of state and federal law.

Legalization of Cannabis: A New Embrace of Harm Reduction in the United States

Tamar Todd

In 2012, Colorado and Washington became the first two U.S. states to approve ending cannabis prohibition and start legally regulating cannabis. In 2014, Alaska and Oregon followed suit, while Washington D.C. passed a more limited measure that legalized possession and home cultivation of cannabis. Voters in five additional states, including California, will consider similar measures in November 2016.

Not all state legalization laws and regulations are created equal. Disparity exists between these states in how they have sought to regulate cannabis: what amount of cannabis is legal to possess; how much cannabis will cost; how cannabis will be labelled and tested; will access by children be restricted; how will cannabis be marketed and advertised; will the revenue from taxes be spent on public health, law enforcement, or elsewhere? The legal states and the potential legalization states on the ballot all differ in their approach to a number of these key policy questions.

Since the states so recently embarked on this legalization experiment, there has not been a comprehensive evaluation of the programs. There are little data available and data collection across states and years is not uniform. However, there are promising preliminary findings based on data that currently exists as follows.

• Cannabis arrests have plummeted in the states that legalized cannabis, although racially disproportionate enforcement of cannabis crimes continues.
• Statewide surveys of youth found that there were no significant increases in youth cannabis use post-legalization.
• Tax revenues have all exceeded initial revenue estimates, totaling $552 million.
• Legalization has not led to more dangerous road conditions, as traffic fatality rates have remained stable.

The presenter is an expert in cannabis policy and has drafted numerous legalization measures. She has also drafted legislation involving medical cannabis and has testified in legislatures about cannabis legalization and regulation.