International Journal of Drug Policy xxx (xxxx) xxxx
From prohibition to regulation: A comparative analysis of the emergence and related outcomes of new legal cannabis policy models (Colorado, Washington State and Uruguay)
a French Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction, Observatoire Français des Drogues et des Toxicomanies (OFDT), 69 rue de Varenne, Paris 75007, France b Centre Européen de Sociologie et de Science Politique (CESSP-Paris), Université Paris I Panthéon-Sorbonne, Paris, France
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International Journal of Drug Policy
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After decades of prohibition, 10 US States,1 Uruguay and Canada have taken the step to legalize a recreational cannabis market (Hudak, Ramsey & Walsh, 2018; Walsh & Ramsey, 2018). Far beyond reducing the penalties for possession or permitting small-scale retail sales as in the Dutch “tolerance model” (Leemhuis, 2018), these moves literally push away the technical limits of decriminalization (Room et al., 2010), creating a new drug policy paradigm based on the idea of bringing the State back into the process of cannabis production and sales, despite the UN drug conventions’ prohibition.
So far, literature comparing the emerging regulatory models has remained thin, except for detailed analyses of some state laws and rules (Pardo, 2014). Based on the empirical findings of research carried out in the first three states which passed legislation creating a legal market of cannabis (Colorado, Washington and Uruguay), this paper discusses the reform processes and their early domestic outcomes (as emphasized by the local government authorities and key players involved in the cannabis sector), with a specific focus on the less documented area: the political processes that led to legalizing cannabis and the most salient implementation issues (from the policy-makers’ perspectives), analyzed with qualitative data (Cannalex Study Group, 2017). The purpose is to examine the differences between the three cannabis regulation models and further investigate how those differences arose from the various social and political dynamics that led to legalization. The paper focuses on describing how policy models in Colorado, Washington and Uruguay appear path-dependent regarding the first reported outcomes, which are directly framed by the regulatory options that were chosen (or eliminated) throughout the reform process.
Data and methods
This paper presents findings from of a study (‘Cannalex’) carried out in 2015–2017 by the French Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (OFDT) and the Institute of Security and Justice (INHESJ). The research aims were to compare the reform trajectories in the three jurisdictions pioneering cannabis legalization, characterize the varia- tions between the regulatory models and assess the early outcomes. Data collection relied on a hundred semi-structured face-to-face inter- views with key stakeholders, practitioners and academics involved in the cannabis policy reform (25–38 interviews per jurisdiction), ana- lyzed together with the existing statistics, studies and findings from documentary research. In each jurisdiction, the interview panel in- cluded supporters of the reform (cannabis advocates and campaign managers) and some opponents – more difficult to recruit –, the public authorities in charge of the implementation (State departments, city and county officials, cannabis regulatory bodies), state data experts, health and legal practitioners, business operators, consumer advocacy groups, academics and local journalists specialized in cannabis issues and, in Colorado and Washington, marijuana industry officials, can- nabis retailers and the local DEA representatives. We specifically at- tempted to acquire representation across the largest range of profes- sionals involved. Two or three person teams, fluent in English and/or Spanish, carried out interviews during two study visits in each jur- isdiction (in 2015 and then 2016, meaning that sixteen key stake- holders were interviewed twice). The average duration of the inter- views was 75 min. The key topics addressed in the interviews covered the characteristics of the reformed cannabis policy (cannabis govern- ance in general, rules and legislation, implementation issues), the un- derstanding of the reform process (role of elected officials, experts and civil society organizations in the reform process, coherence of the
⁎ Correspondence to: French Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction, Observatoire Français des Drogues et des Toxicomanies (OFDT), 69 rue de Varenne, Paris 75007, France.
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1 As of July 2019, 10 states in the US had passed laws legalizing the use and sales of recreational marijuana (Colorado, 2012; Washington, 2012; Alaska, 2014;
Oregon, 2014; California, 2016; Maine, 2016; Massachusetts, 2016; Nevada, 2016; Michigan, 2018; Illinois, 2019). Additionally, Vermont (in 2018 by state legis- lature) and Washington DC (by ballot initiative in 2014) legalized recreational use, possession and growing of cannabis but there is no access to a legal cannabis market.
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Please cite this article as: Ivana Obradovic, International Journal of Drug Policy, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.drugpo.2019.11.002