From a reader named Ben Doty:
Quick question that may benefit from an economist’s perspective, possibly relating to complimentary goods, signaling, expertise, and education:
If you walk into a surf shop and the stench of marijuana nearly knocks you over, does that make you more or less likely to purchase surfing lessons there?
What do you say, readers? I have never been in a surf shop myself; I have, however, been in the pro shop at various golf courses and I can tell you that I have never once smelled marijuana there.
A new paper in JAMA Pediatrics finds that a small number of children are showing up in Colorado emergency rooms having unintentionally ingested marijuana. It seems they are gobbling up their grandparents’ medical-marijuana candy. The paper is gated but Medical News Today summarizes:
As background information, the authors, from the Rocky Mountain Poison and Drug Center, Denver, explained that medical marijuana has higher levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) than when used recreationally. They added that medical marijuana is sold in candies, soft drinks and baked goods. … There is concern that parents/grandparents may not disclose their use of medical marijuana because of the perceived stigma associated with the drug.
Yes, it could all go up in smoke — legal challenges, including from the Federal government, and all that — but among the interesting developments from last night’s election (do yourself a favor and look at this map) is the news that Colorado and Washington voters chose to legalize marijuana. Here’s how the issue was phrased on the Colorado ballot:
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Shall there be an amendment to the Colorado constitution concerning marijuana, and, in connection therewith, providing for the regulation of marijuana; permitting a person twenty-one years of age or older to consume or possess limited amounts of marijuana; providing for the licensing of cultivation facilities, product manufacturing facilities, testing facilities, and retail stores; permitting local governments to regulate or prohibit such facilities; requiring the general assembly to enact an excise tax to be levied upon wholesale sales of marijuana; requiring that the first $40 million in revenue raised annually by such tax be credited to the public school capital construction assistance fund; and requiring the general assembly to enact legislation governing the cultivation, processing, and sale of industrial hemp?
In states like California, where medical marijuana is a big business, dispensaries often feature dozens of kinds of marijuana. Each has it own (supposed) qualities, often reflected in the price per gram. And these names, while colorful, are pretty standardized: newspapers like the LA Weekly run pages of ads that list prices for “White Widow,” “Skywalker OG,” “Strawberry Kush,” and “Charlie Sheen”.
Can you trademark a strain of marijuana to keep a competitor from copying your “brand”? The answer is more complicated than you might think.
First, names like Strawberry Kush are not necessarily brands, but more like plant varieties, such as Meyer lemon or Alphonso mangoes. Plant varieties in general cannot be trademarked. Instead, breeders essentially get a form of plant patent. Growers and breeders can add a trademark on top of that, but the underlying plant variety name ultimately goes into the public domain for all to use. In other words, Fuji apples are a variety; Ranier Brand Fuji Apples is a trademark. A competitor can’t call their Fuji apples “Ranier”, but nothing stops a competitor from identifying their apples as Fujis. Read More »
A few months ago, I discussed the tourist drug ban in the Netherlands, with a focus on my town, Maastricht. NPR just ran a story on the intermediate term effects of the new regulations. Some of the “coffee shops” (places where one could buy a pre-rolled or roll-you-own joint for €3) have reopened, as I predicted; others have not. Unsurprisingly, what has happened is that drug dealers, who previously had dealt only in hard drugs, are now also selling marijuana illegally. While total consumption of weed has probably dropped, buyers are worse off, as are coffee-house owners, with the main beneficiaries being drug dealers. As always, something that raises price in a legal market will increase demand in the illegal market.
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To date, 16 states have passed medical marijuana laws, yet very little is known about their effects. Using state-level data, we examine the relationship between medical marijuana laws and a variety of outcomes. Legalization of medical marijuana is associated with increased use of marijuana among adults, but not among minors. In addition, legalization is associated with a nearly 9 percent decrease in traffic fatalities, most likely to due to its impact on alcohol consumption. Our estimates provide strong evidence that marijuana and alcohol are substitutes.