The Political Economy of Medical Marijuana
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This study aims to shed light on several vexing questions surrounding marijuana at various levels of analysis. Why have some states adopted medical laws when others have not, and what are the implications of these adoptions for elites at the federal level? Why are certain areas within states hotbeds of marijuana use and production? Why, in the face of serious penalties, do certain individuals continue to use, produce, and sell this particular drug? How is the marijuana market structured and how much economic impact does it have? Possible sociopolitical factors responsible for passage (or failure) of marijuana-related voter initiatives and legislation in states are examined and the process of policy diffusion occurring between states that adopt such measures is detailed. An analysis of geographic variations in medical cardholder rates in Oregon is conducted using longitudinal data. Using a Respondent-Driven Sample and a detailed survey of legal and illegal marijuana users in Oregon, I identify differences between the two groups, elucidate differences between marijuana users and the general population, and estimate the economic impact of marijuana on Oregon's informal economy. Overall, the study finds that innovative, Democratically dominated states tend to pass medical marijuana laws and are the most at risk of doing so in the future. Within Oregon, county-level participation in the medical marijuana program is associated with Democratic party members, unemployment rates, and timber harvest levels. The Oregon marijuana market consists of a robust network of small producers, with individual users primarily managing distribution of the drug. Economic estimates indicate that the legalization of marijuana could generate between $37 million and $153 million per year in taxes for the state. Finally, historical evidence suggests that legalization of this drug could lead to its control; however, doing so could structurally transition the market from a robust network of small producers into tight oligopolic control by a limited number of producers, thereby disenfranchising small, artisan growers, communities traditionally reliant on marijuana for revenue, consumers who seek variety, and the plant's genetic diversity.