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Cannabis Policy Adaptation: Exploring Frameworks of State Policy Characteristics

Grant W. Neeley & Lilliard E. Richardson Jr.
PAQ, Vol. 47 No. 3, 253-283 (2023)

Thirty-six states adopted some form of legalized cannabis by 2020, and policy characteristics varied considerably across the states. Nineteen of those states initially adopted legalized cannabis via ballot measure, and seventeen initially adopted via legislation. Implementation of cannabis policy across these types of policy adoption differed substantially in process and policy design. To characterize the policy environment, we develop a unique coding scheme for legalized cannabis with policy characteristics aggregated into three policy bundles. The pharmaceutical bundle treats cannabis as a legal but regulated drug. The permissive bundle allows greater individual discretion on cannabis use. The fiscal bundle treats cannabis as a potential revenue source. Using these policy bundles from the years 1994-2020, we explore how states continue to modify their policy approaches in the implementation period and assess the factors shaping policy adaptation over time, such as administrative capacity, partisan control, state fiscal health, and economic factors.

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