The state-by-state rollout of legalized weed has given economists a perfect natural experiment to measure its effects. Here’s what we know so far — and don’t know — about the costs and benefits of legalization.
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here now is today's for economics, radio, episode of the terrible thought experiment. Imagine that civilization had somehow gotten to where we ve gotten two thousand twenty one without the use of either marijuana or alcohol and thereby discovered overnight. How would you imagine that those two substances would be regulated, distributed, priced, etc compared to how they are now. I think that's a good question. It would be hard if they were just discovered today not to treat them as equal. My pain as it's more of a social construct, that is Catherine Maclean She is an economist at Temple University in Philadelphia, she researches substance, use and mental health and having intersect with government policy. I might call this me search, members of my family have suffered and continued.
Suffer from both mental illness in substance use. So I have seen the patients for families and individuals. So, in our thought, experiment if Mclean had to endorse, either alcohol or marijuana. I think Innis counterfactual world, where both are discovered today, and regulated. Similarly, I think I'd go with marijuana, because why my senses that it is less correlated with water- adverse outcomes- and this is already in a context where the two substances are regulated quite differently, so if they were an uneven playing field, if we'd be removing a lot of the criminal consequences on such it would be hard for me to think about a case where and drug like marijuana that has difference you for peace. Produced from alcohol. It's less likely to the courses on averages. Individuals respond differently to different types of drugs, is thus associated with regret
can violence these sorts of things, so that would be my opinion just to acknowledge any possible conflict of it. Let me ask, are you now? Have you ever been marijuana user? I have Consumer one in the past, yes you didn't inhale enshrined, and how would you describe your experience? I have used the product recreational. In the past. I would not call it unsuccessful. I got up Today, I'm for economics, radio as more and more states allow not only medical marijuana, but recreational use is well. Catherine Maclean helps us Move from thought, experiment to real work. Experiment. They reported Bless chronic pain that herself assessed health. We look at some unintended consequences. Well, I think it's a bit of a loophole and We try to extrapolate what we know so far about marijuana use to what we'd like to know: extrapolation, candy, It is a dangerous tour,
I'm happy This is really MAX Radio, the podcast, but explores the hidden side of everything. Here's your host, Stephen, Abner on the federal level marijuana still illegal in the? U S, but many states have either decriminalize did or made it legal form. Medicinal and even recreational use. California was the first stage allow medical use that was in nineteen eighty six in two thousand twelve com. Corrado in Washington became the first states to allow recreational use. As of April twenty. Twenty one marijuana has been declared. Only legal in more than a dozen states, with many others allowing medical use. Only
Do you have likely learned from freakin? I'm afraid you over the years, this kind of staggered policy roll out can be useful to an economist like Catherine Maclean. It provides a natural experiment to help icily and measure the impact of the policy change sought for comparing outcomes in states that adopt versus does that not adopt a particular policy, in our case a medical, marijuana law or recreational marijuana, while the body of research on the effects Marijuana is to be blunt mixed, so Research shows that heavy use is tied to serious cognitive impairment. Some research is that marijuana can reduce aggression as Mclean, told us and relieve chronic pain, but the, it is we don't know nearly as much about the effect of marijuana, as you might think why, don't we know more so currently in the
glass marijuana is a schedule, one drug, that's according to the drug enforcement administration. So that's alongside toxic heroin means lots of things. One of us it's very challenging to test in randomize control trials. Why is that? Because randomize control trials that are funded by the government which many of them are you can only just marijuana through a couple labs across the entire country, whose actually just one authorized grower research grade marijuana at the University of Mississippi. Although the DE says plans to allow more In addition, the marijuana that can be purchased this very different, much less potent than what consumers actually using when they purchase it legally. He or illegally, so you can see why I'm a clean would be excited to exploit the staggered state by state roll out of. Marijuana legalization, she embarked on a series of research papers, along with a crew of other economists, Roy
he a book, Caser, Gummy, RE, Lauren, Hirsch, Nicholas and David power. The idea was broadly the same for all of these papers. That marijuana can be asthmatically, to treat many health conditions, the zeroed in on one particular demographic. What we do We focus on older adults why older adults, instead of younger adults or even teenagers, older adults are more likely to have a health conditions for which marijuana is an effective treatment. There also the population most likely to access the labour market due to poor health, and the idea was Is this a medical intervention that can keep older adults working? Because if we play things out, we can think about keeping older adults working longer. So this could be beneficial. Not just for their own economic stability also for thinking so security. Keeping folks working can potentially beyond the lifespan of social security? You sound like such an economist. All of a sudden.
You're worried about milking all the extra years of labour out of these old people who have strained backs just haven't smoke them doping back in their even those. Sixty percent of Americans support fully legalizing marijuana with another thirty percent in favour of at least medical use. Only about eighteen percent of Americans ages, twelve up are estimated to use. Marijuana also, of course, whenever one is doing research on substance use where we're relying upon self report of data, which is what I am doing theirs probably some under reporting. Suffice it to say, however, most people are not using marijuana, correct gas. In the end. Air of medical marijuana users is substantially smaller anywhere from a fraction of one percent of some states populations to nearly eight per cent in others. I think that's where the work they have done
recreational marijuana is important, because a lot of folks will think that the recreational is recreation not only a lot of folks may begin, to use marijuana medically post right creation. I want a lot because either they weren't eligible through the medical marijuana laws or there may have been other coms sounds like stigma. Safety just difficulty accessing the product, the first in getting hold of medical marijuana is to have a qualified health condition. These can be things like chronic pain, cancer, arthritis nausea, several mental health conditions like PTSD but qualifying conditions vary from state to state. Some states are very liberal. Some states like Pennsylvania, our conservative does also other barriers, for example, federal healthcare tilities, because marijuana is prohibited, federally they're not able to,
gauge with marijuana as a medical products, because they are a federal facility, Macleans First research paper. On this topic, looked at how marijuana might affect what economists called the work capacity of older adults, the data, came from the University of Michigan Health and retirement study. Longitudinal, sir, hey that's been going on for years. It doesn't. About marijuana use, but it does include a lot of information about employment in health, so we can look at things like did you have our right as in the past, did you have cancer treatment when we look at a group of people who have many of the health conditions that will would qualify them for medical marijuana in their state those people who are most likely to take up medical marijuana, and so we can really zoom in on a sample that likely to use the product magically, so the researchers
isolating the people who might be most inclined to use medical marijuana, even though again they didn't have the data to say whether a given person did or not. They could then look at the employment status of the people in their sample. Did they work in the past year? Did they work full time and so on? And then this is important, for the region this could see if those people lived in a state where medical marijuana had been legalised. Broadly, following a medical marijuana law. We found that limitation leads to reductions in self reports of chronic pain and improve the probability of reporting, very good or excellent health. We also saw that individuals were better able to work, that is, they were met. Our aim to engage in paid employment following a medical marijuana law, so we sought increases in the probability of working full time we saw increase. As in the number of hours worked, but will we didn't
These changes in the probability of working we weren't, seeing folks being drawn into the labour market or perhaps returning from retirement, but amongst them who remain employed. We were seeing it. More likely to work full time and they worked more hours per week. So this suggests the older, Workers are significantly more able to work if they have access to medical marijuana. The next couple studies the queen and her co? Authors did looked at workers, compensation claims, these are, workers could become injured or ill while working, and they require time away from work to recover from the US. Once again, the researchers looked at how things differed in states that did and did not adopt a medical marijuana law. Would they find they found that there was a reduction
in workers compensation claiming of about seven percent- that is a seven percent reduction and workers comp claims in the states that did legalise medical marijuana, so that was not. Huge, but perhaps not small, the researchers than divided the results by age. Anyone from twenty three two thirty nine was classified as a younger adult in and one from forty to sixty two, an older adults. We found that the effects were concentrated amongst the older adults or resolve at a thirteen percent reduction and the poor, mobility of receiving workers, compensation income amongst the younger adults. We didn't find me statistically significant evidence that there were changes in workers. Compensation income received the region, It is then, did the same analysis for states that did indeed not legalise recreational marijuana. Now they ve and even larger declines in workers comp claims among older workers. Seeing a reduction of about twenty percent. Typically, when a state legalised recreational marijuana,
is already made medical marijuana legal. So why would the addition of the recreational law trigger this further decline in workers? Come? I think its many many things when nicotine replacement therapies, my over the cow, for smoking cessation. We saw increases in utilization simply from going from requiring a prescription to going to over the counter, there's probably a financial cost, because the health care professional visit we quite costly, particularly if someone doesn't have insurance or doesn't have nurse and turns you can also think about the hassle cost that you have to go to the doktor gotta prescription and then fill them description were now, you can discover CBS and purchased the product. So that's the analogy for nicotine replacement therapy. There may be even more layers to consider when you're talking about marijuana. You cross, I think, but stigma consume where's may view something that is now legalised.
Don't go see the health care professional may be that this is somehow a safer products, perhaps issues college gains about this product could be helpful for you when it's more openly discussed, more broadly used, the people in Europe study older adults are using marijuana and you find They are filing fewer workers, comp claims, which assumes that there working do we know anything about when they're, using their marijuana and, if they're going to work high, and if so, is that a really bad idea? Those are acts on questions. I do not have the data now that but I can say, is that in all of the states that have legalised that I have reviewed, the employer can still the zero tolerance law on the book. So even if you are using recreational marijuana in a state without legalised in you, fail a drug test you can lose your job really, yes, doesnt seem a little illegal. Well, I think it's a bit of a loop
Paul. There's the really interesting discussion to be had this tradeoff that the employer may face in terms of drug test when it comes into the space of marijuana, if you think about the different drugs things like cocaine or other, perhaps harder drugs than marijuana, many of those hard drugs or out How will leave the system much faster than marijuana? Well, marijuana can remain in the system for weeks or perhaps even a month. So if you're thinking about drug testing there's this sort of perverse incentive, if could incentivize workers too shift towards substances that leave the body more quickly, which may not be desirable. I've only her this discussion amongst employers, I myself have not seen any evidence play, do think it's an interesting case. Can and highlights the difficulty with having please legalise substances. It also highlights the difficulty of making drug policy generally, it's not
quite newtons third law for every action. There is an equal and opposite reaction, but it's the same idea. There are a lot of potential, benefits to legalizing marijuana fewer people when prison more tax dollars. More enjoyment: more pain relief, but there are potential costs to including the unintended consequence anyone who says the policy making is easy is wrong. After the break winners, losers and, of course, more grey areas. Also, please check out the It is part gas from the free economic radio network. It's called to dear breaks the intern and you can get it where you get for economics, radio, we will be right back. Economics, radio is sponsored by lump. We are you our business owner self employed or a gig worker wobbly has helped us One hundred thousand small businesses get a ppp stimulus loan in proudly.
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Catherine Mclean. An economist at Temple. University has co authored several papers analysed, how the legalization of marijuana affect workers, especially older adults, the evidence we ve heard so far from workers comp aims and from a long standing, health and retirement study suggests that marrow it is making it easier to keep working or get back to work after an injury or illness Maclean. And her co. Authors were also interested in how marijuana legalization affected disability claims. They looked at two benefits programmes administered by the Social Security Ministration S. De I or social security, disability insurance and assess I or supplemental security income SS die is for adults who have a disability and who have worked while s eye is for adults and children with disabilities, regardless of work status based on their other findings, Maclean and her colleagues hypothesis,
that access to marijuana might drive down disability claims as well, especially for people who were on the fence about filing a claim. So our idea was broadly marijuana will allow for better seem to management for those marginal clay. Events and when I mean marginal and not placing a value judgment here, all I'm saying is that they are on margin of whether or not to place a claim for them. There may be. Some benefit, we're not thinking about severely. Tabled individuals, so did they find that disability claims also fell once marijuana was legalised in a given state following a the creation of Marijuana law there are increases in applications for both S DE I an aside if excises are not large IRAN about forty seven percent. Given that workers comp claims went down once marijuana was available, wasn't it surprising to The disability claims go up and was a bit surprising, I will certainly say, but while disability com,
aims, rose after marijuana legalization when we look at the new awards Those are the applications that are deemed legitimate. We really don't see much change in the new beneficiaries, in other words, most of these new applications didn't land an actual benefit. Still. Why would assess, die an essay claims rise with marijuana. Legalization while workers Comp claims fell theirs. Literature suggesting that in particular, Society has become a substitute for paid employment, for some workers, and what we're thinking is that the costs and benefits the come with applying for us die unless, as I should have told us, in the favour of an application following recreational marijuana lot, you could also, be that marijuana wasn't as helpful to people applying for disability clings. Maybe marijuana just doesn't help those who need these benefits, perhaps
they are not effective therapeutic substitutes for the specific health conditions in the broadest sense. When you look at these laws, what happens on the dimensions at your examining? Who would you describe as being the winners and losers, the vat legislation, anyone he said The policy making is easy is wrong. I too hard with any policy there are all These winners and losers. I think, within the context of what we're thinking about the winners, are individual. Who, through the legalization of the product, medical or recreational, are able to use a product to better meet, their health conditions of the symptoms associated with her health conditions. Things like chronic pain, mental health, particularly in the space of workers, compensation. Many of the conditions leader workers, compensation or related to things. Like strains, marijuana while we are not claiming in any of our papers that marijuana is going to improve your health. What we are saying
is potentially going to allow some individuals to better manage symptoms associated with things like chronic pain. Now some other winner might be individuals who will use the product. Recreational and enjoy the product. What about? employers? I would think that the workers comp finding is good news for employers. Yes, I would think Sally Gas, ok, but I would think that since you are an economist? What you really want to do here is say: hey look. This is the effect of me. I wanna legalization on one narrow, but important outcome, meaning workers come if you take this effect and aggregated across the country, let's say, and even backdated twenty years This is how many billions of dollars could have been saved from insurers firms and governments. Aren't you attempted to put a number on that I would be tempted if I was focusing on the whole population
We were just more interested in the idea of work capacity and older adults in particular. So when you look at the full population are you'd successful. In putting any kind of number on the cost savings of legalised marijuana. I dont think I won't be for recreation, not because we really haven't looked at the younger adults. This is something That is very salient about both types of laws. The recreational and the medical laws is that different groups are going to be using the products differently. So I think that question is something there I hope someone answers. Maybe what circle back to this at some point last year we put out an absurd about I noticed who are using drugs, including ketamine and empty. I may to treat serious psychiatric ailments like depression and PTSD. It was episode for thirty three. If you want to listen, we also talked about c b d or connubial. What
of hundreds of chemicals in the cannabis or marijuana plant. It is distinct from TH, sea or Tetra Hydro Kanab in all this a collective chemical in marijuana that gets you hi marijuana remains illegal on the federal level, the? U S, government did reach, really legalise C b D. This has led to an abundance of c b, the oils drinks lotions and more on that earlier episode, we spoke with Yasmine heard an addiction specialist at the mouth fine, I health system in New York. She has been researching the use of semi Data tree opiate addiction, and she made some useful distinctions for us between CD and Hc a look and addiction from the perspective of what increases risk.
And also a manoeuvre biologists looking at what happens in the brains of people who have a substance, use disorder, and when we looked at risk factors early cannabis use, we see strongly increased risk for substitutes disorders later in life as well as certain psychiatric disorders and or animal models, INA confirm that when you say your animal models confirm that that suggests that the correlation between we use and later problems is not behavioral its chemical, yes correct. So these rats, for example, their mothers, tell them to stay away from certain other kids, but they still develop certain.
And sensitivities that appeals, for example, later in life, but in our animal models. We study tea at sea and one day said: let's at least look up cannot be dial cd and there we actually saw an opposite effect. We side of it actually reduced harrowing seeking behaviour in the rat model, and then we started thinking well. Could this potentially work for our human subjects and started doing clinical trials? So, while C b d has a lot of potential heard, warns that Th C and she is hardly the only scientists to argue this- that th see He is not without its potential dangers. This is a point that has tended to get lost as more and more states embrace legalization. Catherine Maclean, the economist has also considered some costs of legal acts. There's some recent work suggesting that racial marijuana legalization can lead to increases in crime
crime in particular, violent crime- is very costly to society. A lot of talk has been made that perhaps I wanna is going to be a boon tools, go economies. I think the jury is still out on that. You really have to think about all of the products that are related. That is, if you now use marijuana. Are you going to reduce using alcohol, both of which are taxed by the government and how that's going to flesh out it's not in time, early clear. So having heard the results of your research, let me ask you about another potential unintended consequence of marijuana legalization. My lay persons mine would think well If you legalise marijuana, presumably a lot of people who might otherwise be using and abusing opium aids, especially for for pain relief, might instead ed use marijuana and that the health outcomes would likely be much better. Is that lay persons reckoning close to, who accurate or totally wrong. I think that's right. You can
think about marijuana and opium, as being substitutes therapeutic substitute. And in a variety of studies based on a range of different populations. We do see that when you legalise marijuana, Recreational medically too. We see reduction sometimes quite large in terms of opium? related mortality and we see across Medicaid populations, Medicare populations, pray, the insurance. We see reductions in opium, Lloyd, prescriptions, so given What you ve been learning about marijuana- I generally would your recommendation be the legalization of medical and even recreational marijuana is on balance. Good policy. I won't be supportive of it yes so I'm looking here at at two thousand six paper, by Ringle at all about the relationship between high school marijuana use and annual
things among young adult males and it finds it marijuana use in high school affects human capital formation, which means you earn less money in adulthood. If that's true that suggests the widespread availability of marijuana can be pretty damn Jeanne consequence for certain part of the population. Lisa. One thing about clarify: I'm thinking about adult legal, I say should now I'm not so naive that if you say twenty one is the age that no one in twenty one is going to use the drug, and so I think that is true. As I said earlier, no policy decision is easy. You have to think about both the costs and benefits, or we have to think about is what is best for society. We look right. Now and we see people being incarcerated for many many years for
I want to use for marijuana sales ever think about that. Alongside some of these other costs that you have mentioned, if we were to legalise, we look at public support. It has been trending upwards over time and I think that this is a different period than it was when the Ringle study. Came out. I have a question about that kind of finding which argues that again, the people who use marijuana more in high school have lower annual earnings. Later thing was at age, twenty nine. So in a case like that, I'm curious how Confident one can be that that is a cause oh relationship between the marijuana and the life outcomes, because it could be that the population of peace or who use marijuana in high school are more likely to earn less. I think you have hit upon one of the problems are the challenges that every empirical paper faces there did variable bias, it's very challenging, pulled all else equal between those individuals who would use early and later. I think it's good to be cautious about some of these studies. The work that we are doing
where we are exploiting the experiences of states were using what are referred to as clause experimental research methods. They have their limitations, of course, but these measures there are generally viewed as providing credible instruments on causal effects of the policy, which is different from thing. Do you use marijuana when you're young on? Do you not? It's just very challenging to think you're going to be able to make everything else. The same against someone who uses marijuana in high school and someone who doesn't ok, here's another possible conferred funding question. This is your own research. You found that people who drink alcohol tend to exercise more than people who don't drink out yes that seems potentially it counter intuitive. Potentially, while we counter intuitive, how can you account for that? If you can, we dug deep,
into the visa? That's an old one. Yes, so I interpret that as an association. I do not stuck my claim as an economist thing about a causal, a fact. It probably isn't for many of the things that you just highlighted. When you see it's just an association It may be that the kinds of people who drink a little tend to also be the people who exercise exactly. This simply could be an income Maybe you have enough income to buy booze and you also have enough income to get a nice fancy membership at a Jim, but the reason I caught my eye was because I have a doctor friend who tells me that her most serious patients. The ones who have the most serious conditions are ones who drink a lot, which is not surprising, as we know that out How can someone has a lot of health deficits and She said the ones who don't drink at all. She said her. Abstainers have a lot of conditions
Again, I wondered about that. Could it be that they abstained because they ve had conditions in their concern, but do you know any? about that. What seems to be a health cannon to me, I think your doktor fund is very wise. I think you are. Taken thing about these two groups. There could be very heavy drinkers Certainly, this is not good for your health. They can also think about the apes painters ain't nothing, but why are they abstaining? Maybe they're abstain because they had severe Oh yeah disorders in the past, and this has led to health conditions- were a family history shore or maybe they just are unhealthy in general. Maybe they have a lot of complex health conditions that perhaps there not allowed to drink. Remember at the start of this episode, when we imagined a world where alcohol and marijuana we're both newly discovered Catherine Maclean sided with marijuana. My senses, that it is less correlated with a lot of adverse outcomes in the research
we heard about today. Maclean and her collaborators have gone down. On a fairly narrow set of outcomes related to marijuana policy, the health benefits and leave. We're possibilities for older adults. Most of the news there is encouraging and more states legalise will continue your evidence for all sorts of other marijuana outcomes, a study by the Kansas City FED founded Colorado when the first states to allow recreational use, the marijuana industry contributed substantially to employment, growth and cholera. It takes a nearly four hundred million dollars a year in tax revenues from marijuana, while alcohol sales bring in less than fifty million dollars. That says less about them. Mt of marijuana consumed in Colorado versus the amount of alcohol and more about. Marijuana is taxed at fifteen percent, much much higher than alcohol
and there's ongoing research on many related subjects like the relative danger of driving, drunk verses, driving, high I do think there is room for more work, but that being said, legal position seems to be quite popular. If you look at public opinion polls, these support for legalization has been increasing over time. I think a coffee to all of the recreational marijuana studies at this point, including my own, is that we are published on these early adopters. You can certainly tell stories that early adopters may be different from later adopters. For variety of reasons, so one always has to be cautious and thinking about how something from Colorado is going to extend to Texas. Extrapolation can be a bit of a dangerous tour. I have to say I love episodes like this one. Catherine Maclean does a great job, reminding all of us that getting the right
either can be hard that policy making even harder that things are and always will. They seem, and even when they are there's a lot that we haven't yet seen that's worth. Considering, thanks to Catherine under CO authors for their thoughtful research, thanks to you for listening coming up next time on economic, video here in Congress. There is a big movement to raise the minimum wage. What do Hu, the economist, say the estimates in the lurch our kind of all over the map. Why don't I I must say no more about something as basic as the minimum wage. Well, I think we know a lot actual- we don't all agree, but that's ok, we'll tell you exactly why we
using the federal minimum wage to fifteen dollars is terrible idea. I mean a wonderful idea: no a terrible idea, a wonderful idea. People are not cogs in machines, they are people that's next week until then take care of yourself, and if you can, someone else do freedom of trade it was produced by sticker and rendered radio. We can be reached at radio at freak anomalies that come. This episode was produced by Mary, Duke with help from Munich bout it. Our staff also includes Allison, Craig Low Mark Mccluskey, Gregg, Ribbon, Zack Le Pen, ski and immaterial. We had helped this week from Jasmine. Cleaner or theme song is MR fortune by the hitchhikers. All the other music was composed by Luis Gara, the complete archive of economics, radio, more than four hundred and fifty episodes is now available on all podcast app
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Transcript generated on 2021-04-23.