The Welcome to Colorado sign in Montezuma, Colorado.


A working paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research suggests that cannabis legalization has had little effect on neighboring states but that arrests for cannabis possession in border states have increased 30 percent. Those arrests, however, are almost entirely adults.

“[Legalization] has no impact on juvenile marijuana possession arrests,” the report says, adding that border county arrests cannot be tied directly to legalization by their neighbor. “Police officers might adopt new techniques or use more resources toward cracking down on what they perceive to be more illegal marijuana possession.”

Furthermore, the paper, titled The Cross-Border Spillover Effects of Recreational Marijuana Legalization, found that neighboring states are likely spending more tax dollars to prosecute low-level cannabis offenders.

Additionally, the authors concluded that drunk-driving arrests decreased in both Washington and Colorado border and non-border counties; and those counties employed more police officers. The authors suggest that prohibition could cause an increase in law enforcement and criminal justice spending in non-legal states.

“We do not find evidence that marijuana sale/manufacture arrests, DUI arrests, or opium/cocaine possession arrests in border counties are affected by [recreational marijuana legalization],” the authors state.

According to ArcView Group research published in January, the legal cannabis industry could reach $20 billion by 2020 and in legal states, taxes derived from the industry are often used for education, law enforcement, and substance abuse programs.

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