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Assessing the Impact of Legalizing Recreational Marijuana in Washington and Oregon

In September 2015, the National Institutes of Health awarded Program Design and Evaluation Services (PDES) a grant to study the impact of legalizing recreational marijuana in Washington and Oregon, and the influence of local (i.e., city and county) regulatory policies and taxes on marijuana. PDES will receive $1.4 million over 3 years to study this innovative and timely topic.

Washington and Oregon are among only four states to legalize recreational marijuana. People debate the potential positive and negative impacts of legalization, but most agree that states should take steps to mitigate potential negative consequences of legalization—like youth use, drug dependency, and impaired driving. Some communities are addressing these concerns by initiating additional regulatory policies or taxes on marijuana, such as bans on different types of marijuana licenses, enhanced "buffer" requirements for siting, and zoning restrictions.

Providing a systematic description of these local policies to regulate marijuana enacted after statewide legalization is one of our three study aims. We also aim to provide detailed information about local recreational marijuana markets (e.g., product, price and potency) and describe the association between local policy action and marijuana consumption and marijuana-related public health and social outcomes for both youth and adults.

Findings from this study will provide policymakers and other stakeholders with an understanding of how state legalization is being implemented, and strong evidence about the effectiveness of local policy for mitigating negative impacts.

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