Cannabis policies and user practices: Market separation, price, potency, and accessibility in Amsterdam and San Francisco

Department of Sociology, University of California, Santa Cruz, CA 95060, USA.
The International journal on drug policy (Impact Factor: 2.54). 04/2008; 20(1):28-37. DOI: 10.1016/j.drugpo.2007.11.003
Source: PubMed


This paper explores user perceptions and practices in contrasting legal-policy milieux-Amsterdam (de facto decriminalization) and San Francisco (de jure criminalization) on four policy issues: sources of cannabis and separation of markets for it and other drugs; user perceptions of effects of price on consumption; effects of potency on consumption; and perceived risk of arrest and accessibility of cannabis.
Questions on these issues were added to surveys on career use patterns amongst representative samples of experienced cannabis users using comparable methods.
Most San Francisco respondents obtained cannabis through friends who knew dealers, whereas most Amsterdam respondents obtained it from regulated shops. Only one in seven Amsterdam respondents but half the San Francisco respondents could obtain other drugs from their cannabis sources. Majorities under both systems had never found cannabis "too expensive." Amsterdam respondents preferred milder cannabis whilst San Francisco respondents preferred stronger; majorities in both cities reported self-titrating with potent cannabis. Risk and fear of arrest were higher in San Francisco, but most in both cities perceived arrest as unlikely. Estimated search times were somewhat longer in San Francisco, but a majority reported being able to access it within half a day.
There is substantial separation of markets in the Dutch system. Policies designed to increase cannabis prices appear unlikely to impact consumption. Decriminalization was associated with a preference for milder cannabis, but under both policy regimes most respondents self-titrated when using more potent strains. Criminalization was associated with somewhat higher risk and fear of arrest and somewhat longer search times, but these did not appear to significantly impede access for most respondents.

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    • "The results, confirmed in other publications using the same data, concluded that " policy is not a key determining factor when it comes to the usage patterns of experienced users " (p. 107); see also Reinarman, Cohen, and Kaal (2004) and Reinarman (2009). Reuband (1998), relying exclusively on the limited GPSs available in Europe in the mid-1990s, also concluded that policy had no observable consequence. "
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    • "According to this argument, the marijuana industry adapted to greater law enforcement pressure, first, by shifting from foreign to domestic production in the 1970s and early 1980s as importation became increasingly risky and, second, by relocating domestic production indoors beginning in the mid-1980s to reduce risk of detection and seizure from expanding stateside eradication programs. These developments may have spurred increases in marijuana potency as production moved closer to consumers and domestic growers mastered progressively sophisticated indoor cultivation techniques (e.g., hydroponics, cloning) that maximized per-plant potency, yields, and profits (Bouchard & Dion, 2010; Potter, Gaines, & Holbrook, 1990; Reinarman, 2009). "
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    ABSTRACT: Background Marijuana potency has risen dramatically over the past two decades. In the United States, it is unclear whether state medical marijuana policies have contributed to this increase. Methods Employing a differences-in-differences model within a mediation framework, we analyzed data on n = 39,157 marijuana samples seized by law enforcement in 51 U.S. jurisdictions between 1990-2010, producing estimates of the direct and indirect effects of state medical marijuana laws on potency, as measured by Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol content. Results We found evidence that potency increased by a half percentage point on average after legalization of medical marijuana, although this result was not significant. When we examined specific medical marijuana supply provisions, results suggest that legal allowances for retail dispensaries had the strongest influence, significantly increasing potency by about one percentage point on average. Our mediation analyses examining the mechanisms through which medical marijuana laws influence potency found no evidence of direct regulatory impact. Rather, the results suggest that the impact of these laws occurs predominantly through a compositional shift in the share of the market captured by high-potency sinsemilla. Conclusion Our findings have important implications for policymakers and those in the scientific community trying to understand the extent to which greater availability of higher potency marijuana increases the risk of negative public health outcomes, such as drugged driving and drug-induced psychoses. Future work should reconsider the impact of medical marijuana laws on health outcomes in light of dramatic and ongoing shifts in both marijuana potency and the medical marijuana policy environment.
    The International journal on drug policy 03/2014; 25(2). DOI:10.1016/j.drugpo.2014.01.003 · 2.54 Impact Factor
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    • "A second limit to the use of evidence in debates over drug regulation is the limited and variable evidence surrounding the impacts of these existing forms of liberalization. Where reforms that have been studied, different methods and approaches have been used (Model 1993; Donnelly et al. 1995; McDonald and Atkinson 1995; Sutton and McMillan 1998; Lenton et al. 1999; Single et al. 2000; Solivetti 2001; Kilmer 2002; Korf 2002; Pacula et al. 2004; Williams 2004; Featherston and Lenton 2007; Domrongplasit et al. 2010; Reinarman 2009). To date, the major focus of analysis has been whether decriminalization leads to increases in the prevalence of drug use. "
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    ABSTRACT: The issue of decriminalizing illicit drugs is hotly debated, but is rarely subject to evidence-based analysis. This paper examines the case of Portugal, a nation that decriminalized the use and possession of all illicit drugs on 1 July 2001. Drawing upon independent evaluations and interviews conducted with 13 key stakeholders in 2007 and 2009, it critically analyses the criminal justice and health impacts against trends from neighbouring Spain and Italy. It concludes that contrary to predictions, the Portuguese decriminalization did not lead to major increases in drug use. Indeed, evidence indicates reductions in problematic use, drug-related harms and criminal justice overcrowding. The article discusses these developments in the context of drug law debates and criminological discussions on late modern governance.
    British Journal of Criminology 10/2010; 50(3). DOI:10.1093/bjc/azq038 · 2.13 Impact Factor
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