The Blunt Truth About Marijuana Legalization

As Pennsylvania was preparing to legalize medical marijuana back in 2017, I posted a blog about the Economic Impacts of Marijuana Legalization. A lot has changed in the legal landscape since then and we have had more time to reflect on the experiences of the states blazing the legal trail, Colorado and Washington.

Colorado

In October of 2018, The Colorado Division of Criminal Justice Office of Research and Statistics released “Impacts on Marijuana Legalization in Colorado,” a report that compiles and analyzes data on marijuana-related topics.

The Denver Post summarized the positive findings of the report as follows:

  • Five years after Colorado legalized marijuana, young people are not smoking more pot than they used to, organized crime is on the rise and it’s a mixed bag as to whether legal weed has led to more dangerous driving conditions.
  • Marijuana has not impacted graduation rates or dropout rates in Colorado. Graduation rates have increased while dropout rates have decreased since 2012.

The state report did report a number of negative findings as well:

  • The number of fatalities where a driver tested positive for any cannabinoid (Delta 9 or any other metabolite) increased from 55 (11% of all fatalities) in 2013 to 139 (21% of all fatalities) in 2017.
  • Rates of hospitalization with possible marijuana exposures increased steadily from 2000 through 2015.

Other findings in the state report are mixed:

  • Felony marijuana court case filings (conspiracy, manufacturing, distribution, and possession with intent to sell) declined from 2008 to 2014, but increased from 2015 through 2017. However, felony filings in 2017 (907) were still below 2008 filings (1,431).
  • Filings in organized-crime cases followed a similar pattern, with a dip in 2012 and 2013 followed by a significant increase since 2014. There were 31 organized crime case filings in 2012 and 119 in 2017.

Colorado originally anticipated $70 million in marijuana tax collections per year, but it hit $130 million in 2015, went over $190 million in calendar year 2016 and topped $266 million in 2018.1 A 2016 estimate put the economic impact for the state of Colorado at $2.4 billion, when revenues were half of the 2018 total.

Updated April 2019: https://www.colorado.gov/pacific/revenue/colorado-marijuana-tax-data

Image result for washington state flag

Washington

In Washington, the legalization was expected to generate an estimated $388 million annually. The revenues, however, have been slow to materialize but have grown rapidly with the excise tax revenues from marijuana starting at $62 million in FY 2015, and then more than doubling to $134 million in FY 2016. In FY 2017, Washington state collected $319 million in legal marijuana income and license fees, an increase of 238 percent. While this amount is still short of the original estimates, the marijuana revenues exceed revenues from liquor by more than $113 million.2

The Washington State Caseload Forecast Council conducted an analysis of the impacts from the legalization of recreational marijuana:  

  • Between June 2008 and December 2009, the analysis showed, there were 1,312 offenses committed that resulted in felony sentences for the manufacture, delivery or possession with the intent to deliver marijuana.
  • By contrast, during an 18 month period following the opening of recreational cannabis stores in 2014, there were just 147 marijuana-related crimes that resulted in felony level sentences — a nearly 90 percent decrease.

As reported in Seattle’s Child, the 2016 Washington State Healthy Youth Survey found that “Rates of teen marijuana use have not increased since 2014, despite the changing landscape.”3

The 2016 Washington State Marijuana Impact Report found that since legalization, marijuana use in the state is higher than the national average, which is no surprise: “Washington State young adults (18-25) past-year marijuana use was 6% higher than the nation’s in 2012-2013 – Washington adults (26+) were 5% higher.”4 The report also noted an increase in fatal accidents, however the absolute number remains small: “Drivers with active THC in their blood involved in a fatal driving accidents have increased 122.2% from 2010 (16) to 2014 (23) according to the Washington State Traffic Safety Commission.”5 Finally, the report noted a small number of marijuana-related crimes reported to the Spokane Valley Police Department for January to August of 2015: possession (21), theft (14), and harassment (11).6

Conclusion

Partisans will still find enough evidence to support their positions, but at this point, the scales seem to be tipping in favor of the marijuana legalization advocates. The worst fears of the legalization opponents have not materialized, at least in terms of any chronic, long-term economic impacts. A robust debate continues regarding the health impacts of marijuana legalization, but that is another story.

Sources

1 Source: https://www.colorado.gov/pacific/revenue/colorado-marijuana-tax-data
2 Source: https://www.tre.wa.gov/portfolio-item/washington-state-marijuana-revenues-and-health/
3 Source: http://www.seattleschild.com/Washington-state-legalized-pot-how-has-that-affected-kids/ /
4 Source: http://www.riag.ri.gov/documents/NWHIDTAMarijuanaImpactReportVolume1.pdf, page 9.
5 Source: http://www.riag.ri.gov/documents/NWHIDTAMarijuanaImpactReportVolume1.pdf, page 9.
6 Source: http://www.riag.ri.gov/documents/NWHIDTAMarijuanaImpactReportVolume1.pdf, page 9.

Fourth Economy Analyzes Pittsburgh Region Life Sciences

Pittsburgh Region Life Sciences Benchmarking & Opportunities Analysis

The Pittsburgh Region Life Sciences Benchmarking & Opportunities Analysis report was prepared for the University of Pittsburgh with financial support from the Richard King Mellon Foundation and Hillman Family Foundation.

Fourth Economy Consulting conducted the analysis and report development in partnership with Warner Advisors during the summer of 2016. This report is meant to inform key Pittsburgh regional stakeholders about the assets and opportunities that exist in the life sciences industry sector and highlight areas of future focus. Read more from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette here. The complete report is available here.

 

Nostalgia: Community Development Friend or Foe? Pittsburgh as a Case Study

Mabel-NostalgiaRecent podcasts about the benefits and drawbacks of nostalgia got me thinking about this human experience, its influence on communities, and what this means for community developers. I believe nostalgia can help create community, but prolonged nostalgia can be detrimental to a community’s ability to adapt and thrive. Community developers should recognize the value of a community’s collective nostalgia, but they should also work with communities to build upon this legacy and develop an inclusive story of the future. Pittsburgh, like many communities across the U.S., may benefit from this approach. Continue reading “Nostalgia: Community Development Friend or Foe? Pittsburgh as a Case Study”

5 Lessons From the MLB All-Star Game for Economic Opportunity Pursuits

Overmoyer-MLBIt’s All About the Distance. Or is It?

Sure, power contributes to your ability to hit a home run, but it’s also the mechanics of how you swing that can take the ball farther. Many community and economic development initiatives throw a lot of money (power) at an issue without an understanding of the underlying issues and opportunities. A better approach is to use community input combined with real-time data to better understand the current local mechanics and what forms of investment (money and time) it will take to support change. Continue reading “5 Lessons From the MLB All-Star Game for Economic Opportunity Pursuits”

Embedding Equity Into Economic Development

Guest Blog by Sarah Treuhaft, Director of Equitable Growth Initiatives, PolicyLink

Treuhaft-Inequit-BlogIt is another summer in which America’s deep racial fault lines are being painfully exposed. Following the horrific violence in Baton Rouge, Falcon Heights, and Dallas, in a July 8 poll seven in ten Americans said race relations are “generally bad.” A National League of cities analysis of one hundred “state of the city” speeches from 2016 found that mayors increasingly view racism and inequities as major threats to progress in their cities.
Continue reading “Embedding Equity Into Economic Development”

The Challenge of Creating Actionable Plans

Burket-Blog-Web-05-2016As part of our work in our hometown of Pittsburgh, we have been digging into all of the plans that have been created over the past five years or so. So far, we’ve found around two-dozen plans, reports, or studies on all manner of community, workforce, and economic development topics. Of those, about five have well-articulated goals, actions, responsible parties, though the form and detail of those components varies from plan to plan. And even with detailed actions, the degree to which those plans are being implemented varies a great deal. Our experience in Pittsburgh is not unique – we see the same trend in the other places that we work. So why is it, that despite our best wishes and intentions, it is so hard to create actionable plans? Continue reading “The Challenge of Creating Actionable Plans”

Fourth Economy Co-Founder to take CEO Position in Blair County, Pennsylvania

I would like to convey my great appreciation and affection for all of my Fourth Economy team, clients and community as I announce that I will be leaving the firm to take on the President and CEO position at the Altoona Blair County Development (ABCD) Corporation in Blair County, Pennsylvania later this spring.

ABCD President and CEO Martin J. Marasco announced his retirement last month following a highly acclaimed and recognized 40-year tenure. Marty and ABCD have been consistently recognized as one the highest performing economic development organizations in Pennsylvania and throughout the mid-Atlantic region. This move represents a return home for me. I grew up in Blair County and “cut my teeth” in the economic development world working with ABCD from 2000 to 2007 as Director of Corporate Services and Government Affairs.

Times like these are truly bitter sweet as my family and I prepare for this new professional and personal phase of our life. Rich, Jerry and I have been together for almost 10 years working with communities across the country and building Fourth Economy into the firm it is today – a firm with a very strong national brand and an assembly of the best group of professionals any firm can offer. It has been more family than business to me, so while I am truly excited about this opportunity, it is tough to leave a group of great close friends and colleagues.

So as I move back to the practitioner side of things, a sincere thanks to all for making my tenure here at Fourth Economy so rewarding on every level. Between February 1 and April 1, I can be reached by email at stevejmcknight@gmail.com.

PA Standing at the Ready: Creating Proactive Strategies for Potential Changes in Defense Spending

PA-Defense-ManufacturingDefense Department budgets are in flux. Factors such as the Budget Control Act, reductions or shifts in spending related to the drawdowns in Iraq and Afghanistan and responses to future threats could all create significant economic disruptions for Pennsylvania’s defense industry sectors and the regions they call home.  The state’s defense industry leaders and the communities that support them cannot afford to risk being caught unprepared by waiting for news of budget changes and then reacting to them.  Instead, it is imperative that the sector understands potential risks and prepares for them proactively.   Continue reading “PA Standing at the Ready: Creating Proactive Strategies for Potential Changes in Defense Spending”

Balancing Energy, Air Quality, and a Sense of Place in Pittsburgh

Air-QualityOn Monday June 29, 2015 the United States Supreme Court brought air quality into the limelight when it ruled that the Environmental Protection Agency failed to fully consider the cost to energy producers of limiting air emissions.  While the need to balance the costs of regulation against the intended social benefit is nothing new, the highest court of law held the EPA to that standard just months after the Urban Land Institute reported in America in 2015 that quality of environment (including air and water quality) is the top community attribute priority for people choosing a place to live in 2015. Continue reading “Balancing Energy, Air Quality, and a Sense of Place in Pittsburgh”

What Do Craft Breweries Say About Your Community?

Craft-BrewingYou must know that I (and all of us at Fourth Economy) love local craft beer.  It is among the first things we seek out when visiting both new and familiar communities across the country. Beyond the beer, we also love the places in which they are brewed – the small-towns and big-cities. Those revamped car dealership buildings – home to some favorites such as Fargo Brewing, ND and Kalispell Brewing, MT. That former “mom-pop” auto repair place at the end of dead-end dirt lane – visit Helltown Brewing in Mt. Pleasant, PA. The funky food trucks, local farm to table options and impromptu bluegrass open mic nights that round out the ever-changing scene and texture that is the craft brew pub experience.  We love it all!

Continue reading “What Do Craft Breweries Say About Your Community?”