(Natural) Experimenting With Marijuana in Colorado

Apparently in Colorado, municipalities are setting their own rules on marijuana.  This was part of the general approach of the legalization initiative, which aimed to preserve local autonomy as much as possible.  This is probably a good idea, seeing as how many nice and reasonable people would probably have a problem with marijuana storefronts opening across the street from their kids’ schools.

But the phased introduction of marijuana sales provides a great research opportunity.  There are many municipalities in California, and roughly 100 have already banned sales.  On the other hand, 46 are moving to legalize marijuana sales.  This is a fairly large sample size, and large enough that there are probably a fair number of well-matched pairs between “legal weed” and “illegal weed” counties.

This is a great data source to look at the effects of legal weed!  With GIS (Geographic Information Systems) data, you can look at all sorts of local effects.  For example, is there a discontinuity in altered-driving arrests at the boundaries between “legal weed” and “illegal weed” counties or cities?  Or is there higher crime in “legal weed” municipalities?  It may not be the cleanest data source for political science experiments (though I’ll have to examine that later), but the structure of Colorado’s legalization is a real boon for people who are seriously interested in the relative policy costs and benefits of legalization.

Hopefully people actually care about the costs and benefits…

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