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Understanding Local Control in the Wake of State Adult-Use Cannabis Liberalization: A Content Analysis of State Statutes

Jeffrey Moyer & Yesim Sungu-Eryilmaz
PAQ, Vol. 47 No. 3, 284-299 (2023)

Much has been written about the unique Federalist aspects of cannabis legalization. However, there has been comparatively little published literature about evolving state-local relationships regarding the cannabis industry. In this paper, we examine the state-local relationship and ask: To what extent do local governments control the production, distribution, or use of recreational cannabis under the state statutes? Did state statutes empower or restrict local governments? How much variation exists among states? This study used content analysis of state statutes with an inductive approach to answer these questions. Our results in this paper speak both to the diversity in state structure related to local governments and the newer models of the local governmental role that have spread in recent decades. Some states empowered local voters and governments to decide the time, place, and manner of recreational cannabis, while other states with more centralized functions have instead chosen to empower state agencies with the exclusive authority to license and regulate legal cannabis market participants.

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