Rand looks at the possible effects of a California's Prop 19, otherwise known as marijuana legalization, and concludes that a Wild West may be upon us:
• The pretax retail price of marijuana will substantially decline, likely by more than 80 percent. The price that consumers face will depend heavily on taxes, the structure of the regulatory regime, and how taxes and regulations are enforced.• Consumption will increase, but it is unclear how much because we know neither the shape of the demand curve nor the level of tax evasion (which reduces revenues and the prices that consumers face).• Tax revenues could be dramatically lower or higher than the $1.4 billion estimate; for example, there is uncertainty about potential tax revenues that California might derive from taxing marijuana used by residents of other states (e.g., from "drug tourism"). • Previous studies find that the annual costs of enforcing marijuana laws range from around $200 million to nearly $1.9 billion; our estimates show that the costs are probably less than $300 million.• There is considerable uncertainty about the impact of legalizing marijuana in California on public budgets and consumption, with even minor changes in assumptions leading to major differences in outcomes.• Much of the research used to inform this debate is based on insights from studies that examine small changes in either marijuana prices or the risk of being sanctioned for possession. The proposed legislation in California would create a large change in policy. As a result, it is uncertain how useful these studies are for making projections about marijuana legalization.
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