Tag: cannabis

The Reasonable Way to View Marijuana’s Risks

Cannabis has downsides, but speculation and fear should be replaced with the best evidence available.

Are we underestimating the harms of legalizing marijuana?

Those who hold this view have been in the news recently, saying that research shows we are moving too far too fast without understanding the damage.

America is in the midst of a sea change in policies on pot, and we should all be a bit nervous about unintended consequences.

Vigilance is required. But it should be reasoned and thoughtful. To tackle recent claims, we should use the best methods and evidence as a starting point.

Crime has gone up in Colorado and Washington since those states legalized marijuana. It’s reasonable to wonder about the connection, but it’s also reasonable to be skeptical about causation.

The best method to investigate this may be synthetic controls. Researchers can use a weighted combination of similar groups (states that are like Colorado and Washington in a number of ways) to create a model of how those states might have been expected to perform with respect to crime without any changes in marijuana laws. Benjamin Hansen, a professor of economics at the University of Oregon, used this methodology to create a comparison group that most closely resembled the homicide trends and levels from 2000-12.

“I picked those years because they were after the tremendous crime drop in the early ’90s and most predictive of crime today,” he said. “I ended in 2012 because that’s when Colorado and Washington voted to legalize marijuana.”

This model showed that we might have predicted more of an increasein Colorado or Washington just based on trends seen in comparable states, even without legalization. When he compared the two states with the synthetic control, Colorado and Washington actually had lower rates after legalization than you’d expect given trends.

This is not evidence that legalization lowers crime rates. But it does suggest that we shouldn’t conclude that it increases them. A number of other studies agree.

A potential misperception involves automobile crashes. Drunken drivers are measurably impaired when their blood alcohol level is above a certain level. We can prove this in randomized controlled trials.

READ MORE: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/14/upshot/the-reasonable-way-to-view-marijuanas-risks.html

California Today: Will a Desert Town Test Marijuana’s Saturation Point?

So this story about Needles, a struggling desert town that was name-checked in “The Grapes of Wrath,” caught my eye. The community is now looking at the marijuana industry as a kind of economic savior — but the town already faces plenty of competition. I asked our reporter Nathaniel Popper about the possibilities of pot.

At some point in the distant future, we will probably test the limits of how many towns and counties can cash in on the marijuana boom, but it is safe to say for now that point is a long way off.

One factor that has been limiting the growth of the industry so far is that federal laws make it illegal to transport the plant across state lines, even to other places where it’s legal. If it becomes legal to transport joints and vape pens across state lines, it’s easy to imagine California becoming the pot basket of the country, with all the jobs that entails. On the other hand, as commercial operations spring up, the price of pot is falling fast, challenging a lot of the early players.

I figured this would make it hard to compete with places like Santa Barbara County, where pot producers are allowed to grow outside. But even though growing marijuana indoors is more expensive on a day-to-day basis, it can be much more efficient because the lights can stay on all night, with growing continuing through the year. Indoor facilities can also make it easier to turn out a uniform product.

All that means that there is room in the industry for towns that have cheap land and electricity, alongside the areas that have plentiful farmland.

Needles is in the desert, which has become a kind of Instagrammer’s paradise. Is it trying to attract tourists, too?