Marijuana Legalization: Lessons from the 2012 State Proposals



On November 6, 2012, citizens in three U.S. states will vote on whether to legalize production, distribution, possession, and sale of marijuana for general—not just medical—use. Legalization is typically imagined as an up or down, binary choice. However, a comparison of 17 legalization proposals actively discussed in various U.S. states in 2012 reveals differences that would have important consequences for price, availability, arrest-risk, use, and, hence, health. This paper divides the proposals into three broad categories and assesses their political feasibility. It then addresses the implications of state-level legalization, and possible federal responses to it, for retail price, tax revenues, and spill-over effects in other states where marijuana would remain illegal.