Grigore Tudor Ionut – USA / Uruguay: “The efficiency of marijuana legalization and regulation policies: Colorado, U.S.A vs. Uruguay. A comparative study”


“Babeș-Bolyai” University Faculty of Political, Administration and Communication science

Department of Political Science Specialization of International Development

 The efficiency of marihuana legalization and regulation policies: Colorado, U.S.A vs. Uruguay. A comparative study

Grigore Tudor Ionut


Brand Strategist with an educational background in international development, with a focus on public policy analysis. Research work includes a novel thesis on the efficiency of cannabis regulation policies. Professional background includes working high-profile brand strategies for FMCGs giants like LU Biscuits and General Tires, along with other communication & business development projects. 


I would like to thank in the most sincerest manner my coordinator on this thesis, Bogdan Radu Ph.D., for all of the support offered and the guidance, which ultimately helped me conduct my research and offered it its final shape. I would also like to thank my family for providing me with means to accomplish this masters’ program, with their moral and financial support, sometimes at the expense of their own expenses, and last but no least I would like to thank “Babeș-Bolyai” University and the Faculty of Political, Administration and Communication science and all my teachers throughout the two years spent learning here, for all the knowledge they passed on to me.


According to data from the Colorado Department of Revenue, the state has managed to extract ~$75 million dollars in marijuana tax revenue in 2015, while Uruguay has yet to produce any financial gains from its regulation of marijuana. This thesis places a specific interest in pointing out the origins of each law and the implementation procedures entailed by them, in order to determine their overall efficiency. In order to conducts the research many data sets were acquired via internet and also data was collected from studies already conducted to the matter. The variety of sources from which the data was collected is of great span, ranging from institutions such as The World Bank, UNICEF, The UNODC, the Colorado Department of Revenue, Junta Nacional des Drogas, the IRCCA and many, many other. The thesis shows that a more liberal regulation framework in case of regulating marijuana tends to give the best results, when applied to a more developed state.

List of Abbreviations

  • The UNODC – The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime
  • The IRCCA – Institudo Regulator e de Control de Cannabis
  • The IMF – The International Monetary Fund
  • SED – Socioeconomic development
  • OECD – The Organisation for Economic Co-operation
  • UNICEF – United Nations Children’s Fund


1.1 Empirical puzzle

The implementation of pro-cannabis policies in Uruguay and Colorado are considered huge stepping stones in the legal history of cannabis. The U.S. state, with a high degree of development, managed to amass in a fiscal year (2014) of marijuana sales and growing/employment licensing, revenue up to $56.2 million, with sales that amount to $313.2 million for recreational pot. The average price for a gram in Colorado is around $17.[1] On the other hand, Uruguay plans to sell recreational cannabis at a cost of somewhere between $0.85 – $0.95 dollars per gram, with no added tax. Exception makes the “variable fee”, which will be directed towards the funding of the IRCCA (Institute for Regulation and Control of Cannabis).[2] Uruguay still bears the statute of a “developing country”, and while the state of Colorado makes a lot of money from sale revenues, the South-American state gets no revenue from legal cannabis sales.


1.2 Broader context of marijuana legalization in Colorado and Uruguay

Colorado is the first U.S. state to fully legalize the recreational use of marijuana and its afferent market niche, thus creating around this policy set a whole new industry[3]. Even though the federal drug law is in disagreement with the state level policy, the decentralization of decisional structures in the U.S.A gives each individual state the opportunity to act on behalf of its citizens requirements more effectively. The impact of decentralization is seen at the level of the local economy as increased economic growth, derived from a decentralized policy making procedure.[4] Amendment 64, passed in Colorado, makes it the first state “to regulate the cultivation, manufacture and sale of marijuana for adults 21 and over”[5], endorsed by the vote on November 6 2012, when 55.32% of the voters opted for a pro-cannabis legislation[6]. The first retail, recreational use, cannabis store, opened up on Jan 1st 2014.

Uruguay became the first state in the world to fully legalize the use, commerce and cultivation of “marijuana” on 20 December 2013. President Jose Mujica made it possible by enacting Law 19.172[7]. The stricter regulations in the case of Uruguay and the state driven dirigisme of the cannabis market created a series of issues around this new law. The ways one can access marijuana in Uruguay are to home grow it, as a single grower or an association known as a cannabis club. Both forms of cultivation practices require registration with the IRCCA.[8] The third, yet unavailable option, is to purchase cannabis from a state authorized pharmacy.[9] In all of the above cases one must be registered with the IRCCA, and can only consume a monthly quota of 40 grams per citizen above 18 years of age.[10]


1.3 Research question

Having witnessed the situation in both the state of Colorado and Uruguay some interesting aspects come to light. On one hand a self-sufficient state, Colorado, in a developed country, U.S.A, implements a pro-cannabis policy that earns them millions, while on the other side of the field, a South-American state, with a highly developed democratic apparatus and a very strong civil society, promotes a similar law, but without earning anywhere close to what the U.S. state does. Bearing all these in mind the idea of the present study is to dig in and find out how effective has each of these policies been in their implementation, and implicitly to determine which policy model is most efficient and can be easily replicated to other cases. The research questions that arise from all these statements are: How durable are the cannabis legalization policies created by Uruguay and Colorado in comparison to each other? Which policy implementation model proved to be most efficient at the degree that it can be replicated, to a certain extent, in another similar context?


1.4 Thesis Statement

Due to over-regulatory frameworks regarding their marihuana legalization schematic, Uruguay created a big mess in the process. The target of the policy implementation were not achieved and the proposed areas of betterment targeted by the policies themselves registered no significant improvement in terms of values and figures, and moreover, generated negative effects. The over-regulatory framework and the state-centered dirigisme type of approach did not prove to be a viable option for the case of Uruguay, and even for a regulation process of marijuana in general. It is fair to also consider the socioeconomic and political climate of Uruguay and the geographical area it is found, and the severe implications of the international drug trade in the area.

Colorado, on the other hand, opted for a much more liberal framework of access to marijuana, also giving possibility to self-cultivate and/or to purchase from authorized locations. Creating a legal marijuana market created a source of profit that was inexistent before, with the prospects of reinvestments in areas of interest, while also creating jobs and spill-over effects into other business areas. Colorado developed a coherent regulation model, based on socio-liberal approach, that created a huge industry were there was none before, creating a new “cash-cow” type of market.


1.5 Literature choice

The literature chosen for this study was carefully selected in order to gain an understanding of the prior research conducted of marijuana legalization, in Uruguay and Colorado, and also to understand the relation that illicit drugs have with development issues. The literature reviewed for this thesis came from domains such as: political science, development studies, public policy and economics. The literature chosen for the theoretical model pertains to public policy analysis.


1.6 Theory choice

The Institutionalism Theory and the Public Choice Theory have been chosen for this study, as they appear to best describe the implementation processes in the two states under scrutiny. The Institutionalism Theory appears to be best suited to explain the regulation behavior for the case of Uruguay, while the Public Choice Theory fits best to the regulation process in Colorado, U.S.A. In addition, these theories will help reveal the reasoning behind the choices made by each state entity in regards to the approaches they took towards legalizing and regulating marijuana.


1.7 Methodology and method 

The methodology in this case will be covered by the “Most Different Systems Design”[11] and using both qualitative and quantitative methods. The methodological design chosen fits the scenario as it is portraying two very different systems that created a legal regulatory framework for a prior illegal substance. Using both qualitative and quantitative methods is necessary due to the nature of the study, which requires creating an understanding based on all means available.


1.8 Added value

Since the issue concerning illicit drugs and development as a debate that was brought at the center of the table in the international arena, legalizing and regulating marijuana are events that impact directly on the course of action in this case. Since the “war on drugs” approach and statute of illegality have created grave negative impacts on all wavelengths, people, organizations and governments alike are starting to look towards alternatives. Decriminalization of drugs and legalizing certain ones, that pose little risk and even have medical benefits, are regarded as the “new way to go”. In this scenario, knowing how the pioneers of the game played the game and how it ended up for them will provide with valuable lessons and information for future “adventurers”. As such, the value of this study is represented by its ability to point out to which policy model one state should go to in case it wants to follow an alternative drug policy, and which practices it should avoid, as not to be put in “sticky situations”.

1.9 Structure of the thesi 

The thesis will continue with Chapter 2, which represents the Literature Review. This chapter will present two sets of literature. The first set will be comprised out of literature representing the relationship between illicit drug trafficking and development, and the impacts this illicit trade has on the underdeveloped state in which the drug plants are often cultivated. The second literature set will review literature referring to the legalization and regulation of marijuana in Colorado and Uruguay.

Chapter 3 will represent the Theoretical Framework of the study. Firstly, it will present the Institutionalism and Public Choice Theory, while afterwards it will go on to present the Operational Framework. Following the Operational Framework, the research design will be presented, comprised out of methodology, analytical framework and data collection.

Chapter 4 will the Results and Discussion section. It will firstly provide an overview of the context in which each law occurred in both Colorado and Uruguay. It will then follow with a comparative analysis along the lines of the analytical schematic presented in order to prove the hypothesis.

Chapter 5 will mark the Conclusions. This section will review what has been said throughout the thesis and draw final words on the results and implications of the study. This section will also present with recommendations. Following the Conclusions the Bibliography will be presented.


Literature review

Within this chapter the literature pertaining to marihuana decriminalization and legalization of marihuana in Colorado and Uruguay will be reviewed and taken note of. They will serve as guides to help locate the place of the current study within the literature. Currently, in the world there have been several countries that have legalized and/or decriminalized the use of marihuana and other drugs. Some of these processes occurred de jure or de facto, depending on the case. The main idea behind these endeavors was to dampen the damage that “the war on drugs” approach has done over the past century and try to shift the illegal practices related to drug-trafficking and production into a legal and safer framework.

There are two sets of literature in this case that merit to be taken into consideration and reviewed. The first set is the one concerning the phenomenon of decriminalization as an alternative to the “war on drugs” approach and the cost that this war has had over the past century , especially in the places were the drugs are being cultivated/produced. The second set which is vital to the understanding of the place of this study within the literature is what concern marihuana legalization, in the geographical areas of interest to this study (Colorado, U.S.A. and Uruguay), and in any other area where such efforts have been made.


2.1 Literature concerning the effects of “the war on drugs” and drug-decriminalization as an alternative

Within this literature set the most relevant works are in the lines of reports that present the world-wide situation of the drug trade and the damage that the “war on drugs” has inflicted among these countries. The most prevalent scenarios are the ones that imply south-hemispheric states, where the climate is most suited for cultivating and producing drug crops.

“Dependent on Development: The interrelationships between illicit drugs and socioeconomic development”[12] is a report conducted by the Nossal Institute for Global Health, in 2010, one that seeks out to emphasize the link between illicit drug production, trade, use and socioeconomic development.[13] The reports aims at demonstrating how the links between these dimensions and the way in which drug-control policies are implemented and conducted lead often to negative consequences in terms of development sector gains[14], and moreover, the way these regulation policies are run “increase the vulnerability of illicit drug production, trade and use.”[15] The study is important as it takes to light the many dimensions of the illicit drug trade and puts emphasis on the chaos that the miscommunication between development agents and policy makers is making among these states. The idea behind the report is to raise awareness and stimulate further research in this direction, in order to stimulate further policy development and the finding of policy solutions that will diminish the negative effects that the current policy approach (“the war on drugs”) is having on these states.

Another similar study, “Drugs and Illicit Practices: Assessing their impact on development and governance”[16], conducted on the behalf of Christian Aid, seeks to bring forth a new view on development thinking, by uncovering a blind-spot, that of the impact of the illicit economy on poverty eradication.[17] IMF (International Monetary Fund) and the UNODC (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime) are closely monitoring the global illicit economy and its development. Their estimates of the scale of illicit revenue gained from all crime is estimated between 2.3 % and 5.5 % of the Global GDP.[18] According to the UNODC, the largest income from international organized crime comes from illicit drug-trafficking, making up for 0.6 % to 0.9 % of the Global GDP.[19] Estimating in USD that would translate, according to the Worlds Bank’s GDP ranking for 2014, $449 billion/year, “or up to five times more than the global aid budget”.[20] Taking these number into consideration the scenario painted is clear: the impact that the illicit drug economy has is mind-blowing, as it is embedded into all fabrics of society. The report goes on to underline the one-dimension approach to the drug problem (the war on drugs) and its ineffectiveness to generate pertinent results into lifting the heavy burden of poverty from impoverished communities that are being heavily affected by the drug trade. Linking the former mentioned aspect with the lack of involvement from developmental actors, the report seeks to further raise awareness of the impending necessity of involvement from development actors, as to include them among their programs and advocacy work.[21]

In a similar tone, “Drugs and Development: The Great Disconnect”[22], is a report that argues for categorizing the “drug problem” as a development issue[23]. It goes on to argue that factors like poverty, insecurity and inequality directly impact on the vulnerability of low-income, drug-production states, and further increase their exposure and vulnerability.[24] Conditions of marginalization and exclusion have been sustaining the practice of illegal cultivation as a means of subsistence for impoverished communities, adding to the law enforcement response which “sees drugs as a cause, rather than a symptom of the structural problems”[25] within these countries, the combination of the two resulting in dire consequences for the development prospects of these countries.[26] The violent response of law enforcement towards drug cultivation practices in the Global South, have wreaked havoc among these poverty-driven communities, adding to the expenses generated by such practices which only detriment social and capital spending.[27] The UNODC has recognized, in recent years, the vicious cycle created by “drug production, drug trafficking poverty and instability, in particular through the promotion of Alternative Development (AD)”[28], a program that is aimed at creating a cooperative link between drug control and development agencies in elaborating of the post-2015 international development agenda.[29] As the studies presented before, this particular one also attempts to draw awareness to the increasing linkage between development and illicit drug practice and urge for a new approach in this direction, as not to further hinder the development of the global south, an area which is already dealing with heavy-developmental mishaps.

The following study, “The Negative Impact of Drug Control On Public Health: The Global Crisis of Avoidable Pain”[30], is a study that focuses on the negative impact that drug over-regulation and prohibition has on public health, in less developed states. It argues that approximately 5.5 billion people out of the whole global population have little to no access to opioid analgesics, morphine in particular, which results in great suffering for patients in need of these analgesics (terminal cancer patients, terminal AIDS, labor pains etc.).[31] The most recent estimate, according to the study, showed that at least “92 % of the world’s supply of morphine was consumed by just 17 % of the global population”,[32] primarily concentrated in the global north.[33] This translates that most of the global population, which is concentrated in the global south, gets little to no access to controlled opioid medicine due to heavy restrictions and over-regulations that are required to get in possession of these types of medicine. Given the UN drug conventions, the regulations in some countries are over-burdened and create difficult situations for physicians where they “must operate in a climate of fear and legal uncertainty, real or perceived”[34], making it also difficult for patients in need to gain access to their required medication.[35] This report points out another problem linked to drug criminalization and over-regulation, showing another negative facet of the impact of the illegal drug trade.

One of the most comprehensive reports on the impact of the drug-trade on development is a World-Bank report in 2010, “Innocent Bystanders: Developing Countries and the War on Drugs”[36], is multi-dimensional report, that thoroughly analyses the impact that “the war on drugs” has in developing countries. The report goes through all the drug-production crop systems existent (cocaine, opium, marijuana) and gives many examples of case studies in which these systems operate, their prices, the market and the networks. The report paints a very detailed picture of how the drug trade is operated from incipient production to consumer deployment of the end product (heroin, crack, marihuana etc.) and emphasizes the risks and effects of the drug trade and the way it converges with the practices of the “war on drugs” approach to create chaos and disruption. The details within this report are valuable and are a solid basis for future research and provide incentives for creating a different approach to the drug trade, implicitly to strengthen the link between drug control and developmental practices.


2.1.1 Case study: Decriminalization in Portugal

The case study of Portugal is very relevant since it is the first country in the world and within the border of the European Union to decriminalize the use of all drugs. “Drug Decriminalization in Portugal: Lessons for Creating Fair and Successful Drug Policies”[37], by Glenn Greenwald, shows the success story of Portugal in its journey to decriminalize all drugs for consumption and possession and provides with policy incentives and basis for creating further, successful drug legislations. On July 1st 2001, a nationwide law took effect in Portugal, decriminalizing all drugs.[38] Decriminalization in Portugal meant that drug possession for personal use and drug consumption are still illegal but will not be prosecuted and considered criminal offenses, also being permanently deleted from the criminal record, while trafficking and cultivation/production still remain prosecutable.[39] While many countries in the E.U. have developed various de facto legal frameworks for drugs decriminalization (especially cannabis), Portugal remains the only country in the E.U. to have an explicit law in place that decriminalizes all drugs. The effects that the decriminalization had ranged from improved public health, less deaths as a result of disease and over-dosage, lowering the expenses entailed by law enforcement procedures to arrest and prosecute drug-offenders, lowering of usage rates among heavy-drug users etc. The overall positive effects generated by this legislation provide with solid ground for further, similar endeavors and encourage states to follow in the footsteps of Portugal in order to improve the overall socioeconomic development.


2.2 Marijuana Legalization in Colorado

This subsection will review studies on the process of marijuana legalization in Colorado, U.S.A. Since it was the first state in the U.S.A. to fully legalize recreational marijuana it has been under careful watch and many scholars have taken interest into looking at how the system put in place by the “Rocky Mountain State” worked thus far.

A preliminary report in this case, “The Legalization of Marijuana in Colorado: The Impact”[40], is trying to assess the possible impacts that the legalization of marijuana under Amendment 64 will have in Colorado, as it was written in 2013. The report is an extensive one and covers many facets of marijuana usage: Colorado driving fatalities; Colorado youth marijuana use; Colorado Adult marijuana use; Colorado Emergency Room admissions – Marijuana admissions; Colorado marijuana-related exposure cases; diversion of Colorado marijuana (general); diversion of Colorado Marijuana (postal packages).[41] The report is mostly focused on the negative aspects that marijuana legalization will have and also assess present conditions of marijuana use and related negative issues associated with it. The report seeks to underline the potential negative consequences that legalizing marijuana will have in the state of Colorado.

“Status Report: Marijuana legalization in Colorado after one year of retail sales and two years of decriminalization”[42], is a small, preliminary report, that takes into account the numbers that were generated by the legalization of marijuana, inside the many facets of the trade. The report mentions arrest and judicial savings, decrease in crime rates, tax revenue, decrease in traffic fatalities and economic benefits, all which have taken place under the effect of Amendment 64. [43]

A similar, small report, “Cannabis regulation in Colorado: early evidence defies the critics”[44], is aimed at showing evidence to support the fact that the implementation of Amendment 64 in Colorado was a success. It reviews number regarding criminality, cannabis use, tax revenue gain, health harms, driving under the influence of cannabis etc., to point out the overall “win-win” situation type of scenario that is unfolding as a result of legalizing cannabis.[45] Even though there also negative aspect regarding the increase in consumption, the overall gains in a totalized manner outweigh the deficits, that being the central argument of the piece.

“Colorado’s Rollout of Legal Marijuana is Succeeding: A report on the State’s Implementation of Legalization”[46], is a more comprehensive report aimed at reviewing the way the administration in Colorado came together to form the bureaucratic framework necessary for the implementation on the legalization of marijuana. It takes a step by step approach to the methods used in creating the new administrative system, while also taking note and giving advice on the challenges the law may face in the near future.[47] The value of this particular report comes in the form of its assessment of the implementation procedures at the bureaucratic level as to provide an understanding of these processes and how well they constructed themselves.

A different approach is taken by another study coming from “The Drug Policy Alliance”, in the form of “Marijuana Arrests in Colorado after the Passage of Amendment 64”.[48] The study is aimed at accounting for every important aspect regarding the rate of arrests in Colorado after the enactment of Amendment 64 in order to give a picture of how the legalization of cannabis affected this particular aspect. The study uses a timeline to assess a “before and after” type of scenario, too see exactly to what extent the legalization of marijuana impacted on the arrest rate in the state. It is a valuable piece because it makes reference to exactly this aspect which is of interest in order for one to judge the overall effectiveness of the law.

One of the most valuable and comprehensive studies with reference to the legalization procedures in Colorado is represented by the “Task Force Report on the Implementation of Amendment 64: Regulation of Marijuana in Colorado”[49], drafted by the Task Force that oversaw the implementation of Amendment 64 in Colorado. It represents the draft of the implementation procedures that were to unfold in the state of Colorado prior to the commencement of legal sales on Jan 1st 2014, and it is the regulatory framework of the Amendment itself, the central piece of the puzzle. The report covers all areas of implementation procedures and is the representation of the legislation for the regulation of marihuana. The complexity of the report make it an invaluable piece towards understanding the system of marijuana legalization in the state of Colorado, and make grounds for further research on these procedures and possibility of improvement.

The sub-section above has reviewed the most important and relevant studies and papers that refer to the phenomenon of marihuana legalization in Colorado, U.S.A. It is of utmost importance to take all of these writings into consideration, as they will provide a solid basis for integrating the present study within the body of literature that is already present.


2.3 Marijuana legalization in Uruguay

This sub-section will review the studies and papers that are linked to Uruguay’s legalization phenomenon. Uruguay is the first state in the world to fully legalize recreational marijuana, but under heavy regulation. It is of primordial use that the literature that pertains to the legalization process in this area be reviewed, as the current study tries to find its own place within the whole body of writings.

A fact sheet written by The Drug Policy Alliance, “Marijuana Legalization in Uruguay”[50], is a small review of the aspects involving the legalization of marijuana in Uruguay. It shortly reviews the main points of the process in a summary, gives an overall assessment of the probable impact of the law, and takes into account some of the regulatory measures associated with it.[51]

“Marijuana Legalization in Uruguay and Beyond”[52], is a study that studies the context in which the legalization of marijuana in Uruguay occurred. It takes into account the attitudes towards marijuana of Uruguayans, consumer/non-consumer cleavage, marijuana consumers of Montevideo (the capital of Uruguay), and gives an end result that shows the need for further regulations to the law given the challenges presented by the numbers.[53] The value of the study relies on the fact that it provides a clear picture of the attitudes of the citizens of Uruguay towards marijuana and its consumption, and constitutes a solid basis for the analyzing this particular aspect.

“Inventando Caminos: The Road of Marijuana Legalization in Uruguay”[54], is a general overview study regarding the issues of marijuana legalization in Uruguay. It goes about explaining the terminology of legalization, decriminalization and prohibition, it puts in context the drug problem in the south-American continent, and arrives at the Uruguay case in which it explains the regulatory framework and presents the challenges the law faces.[55] It is a quick overview of the process for an unauthorized reader and offers an interesting perspective for one to understand the process as a whole and get a sense of reality when looking at the case of Uruguay.

“Assessment of the first year of the legally regulated cannabis market in Uruguay”[56], is a small assessment report driven by the idea to present a preliminary impact of the legalization law in Uruguay. It points out the significance of the law, a short analysis, its achievements and the challenges it faces, providing with a slim overview of the legal framework and its impact on socioeconomic system.

“Uruguay: Marijuana, Organized Crime and the Politics on Drugs”[57], is a paper dating back before the de jure legislation of marijuana in Uruguay, back when it was just introduced in the Parliament for voting, which takes a look at the implications that the law might have on organized crime and the obstacles the bill faces. It makes a causal link between the two aspects, implying that they affect each other and gives relevant details about them.[58] It is interesting to take it into consideration as one could now match the predictions made back then with the reality of the present moment, to see how accurate these predictions were.

A study done by Luke Albrecht of Knox College, Illinois, takes a look at the legalization policy of Uruguay as a “Cutting Edge Alternative Policy”.[59] The paper presents a brief history of drug policy (Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs in 1961; Treaty on Psychotropic Substances in 1971 etc.)[60], after which it also presents the alternative drug policies already in place in the world, in order to draw a comparative line to create a better understanding of the phenomenon. Lastly, it goes over the case of Uruguay and reviews its strategy for legalizing and regulation marijuana, while also giving indication of the fact that an ideal drug policy is merely a “utopian design” and that there will always be drawbacks in the sense.[61] The paper, even though small in size, is conclusive and offers a very interesting perspective, one that can serve as a guidance tool for further regulatory schemes.

“Uruguay’s Drug Policy: Major Innovations, Major Challenges”[62], is a good tool to take note of the many difficulties that the Uruguayan law is facing, while also taking act of the transformational necessities that need to be undertaken by law makers there to get their policy on the right track. The paper reviews the law in question and offers several recommendations for Uruguayan law makers, such as: to maintain a flexible approach in lines of market price and potency varieties available for sale; make continuous adjustments to the law as they go, by means of monitoring and evaluation programs, while also taking note of academic and civil society analysts; implement a drug prevention strategy that does not create a repulsion of growers to register with the government authority (IRCCA); better inform the public on the aims of the law and request their intervention.[63]

This section has thus reviewed the most relevant studies regarding the marijuana legalization in Uruguay. The literature presented offers insight on the issue of marijuana legalization/regulation in the state and will help position the current study in the literature.


2.4 Comparative studies and placement of the present study in the literature

This sub-section will present a list of comparative studies that have been done between the marihuana legalization policies of states like Uruguay, Colorado and Washington. The states that are being introduced in these comparative models have de jure laws in place that have regulated the consumption and distribution of recreational marihuana. The literature available in this particular direction is albeit slim and very few, relevant pieces are available. The present study seeks to cover the gaps present in this niche of research and to offer comprehensive and exhaustive analytical perspectives as to better understand the level of functionality that is being influenced by these cleavages in policy approach.

“Launching Legal Marijuana: Regulatory Challenges and Options”[64], presents a comparative perspective of several states that have regulatory schemes in place for marijuana. The paper presents the cases of Colorado, Washington, Uruguay, Mexico and Canada, and takes note of the differences and similarities between all these different policy scheme and try to explain the differentiated regulation frameworks.[65] The incipient comparison between these constituencies with legal marijuana sets a basis for further research, as further innovations to these laws are mandatory for their success and evolution, and one might learn a thing or two when “looking into the neighbors garden”.


Theoretical framework, operational framework and research design

This chapter will review the theories that are at the core of this study, the theoretical framework, operational framework and the research design. It will begin by providing an overview of the Institutional Theory and Public Choice Theory, and will also argue for their choice and relevance for the study. The latter part of this chapter will be comprised out of the operational framework and the research design.


3.1 Overview of Institutional Theory

This sub-section will provide an overview of the main principles present in Institutional Theory. The Institutional Theory is a theoretical conception that is used in explaining the behavior of particular type of policy making, that which involves a top-down approach. In other words, something that is identified as a higher level mechanism is used to explain the processes and results that occur at the lower levels (grass-roots).[66]

Institutional theory, when applied to politics, “posit two distinct forms of institutions’ influence over policy and political action”[67], creating a framework that is both limitative and creates accessibility in different cases.[68] Institutions are described as being entities who create a great amount of constraint, limiting the possibility for “mobilization, access, and influence”.[69] The manner in which institutions influence the behavior of the policy mechanism is an extremely important aspect, as it dictates the way the state is perceived in terms of level of involvement and degree of control of the policy creation apparatus.

The theorizing of political institutionalism has employed the “Tocquevillian argument”[70] in explaining the way large-scale political institutions are constructed and how they function in relation to all groups in society, citing the argument that political institutions have a major degree of influence in outcomes produced.[71] Other scholars used this theoretical approach to explain interactions of actors at a “medium-systemic, inter-organizational, or meso-level”.[72] These actors are perceived as ones who work within the constraints posed by institutionalism, while trying to influence state policy.[73] The main theoretical framework in the case of political institutionalism is that state institutions situated at macro-level model politics and political actors, which in turn act under the constraints imposed and may in turn impact on states and policies “refashioning political institutions in the process.”[74]

The overall authority in macro-level political institutions might be either centralized or decentralized, depending on the conditions under which the respective political system emerged.[75] The legislative, judicial and executive policing might be either located within several institutions, in a cluster format, or might be more spread around into different, smaller organizational structures, each one with their distinct degree of influence and level of autonomy.[76] The degree of centralization of power and level of “despotism” greatly influences the manner in which policy is being conducted and enforced, and also represent testimony to the degree of coercion that is practiced when implementing policies.

Political institutionalism has not been considered a schools institutionalism in a de jure manner, but its de factor emergence began in the in 1980’s as the “state-centered theory”.[77] Similar to the theory of institutionalism in organizations, political institutionalism addresses the issue of power exclusively and puts emphasis on the “causal role of political institutions on political outcomes and processes.”[78] The scholars that used this perspective relied on using state structures and/or actors in their explanations as reaction to “Marxist and pluralist accounts of politics”[79] which viewed the state an area, in which organized groups, capitalist and workers were attributed with causal roles.[80] The institutionalists that came after became more focused on “systemic and structural aspects of states and political party systems”[81] and constructing arguments that sought to prove that political institutions “shape the political identities, interests, and strategies of politically mobilized groups”.[82] All in all, the approaches implied by the perspectives of political institutionalism do well in serving to explain the way some states behave and act in regard to their policy making, and the reasoning behind their actions.


3.1.1 Value of the Institutional Theory for understanding the case of Uruguay

This sub-section will present the value assessment of the Institutional Theory in regards to explaining the policy processes in the case of Uruguay’s marihuana legalization endeavor. Considering the way Uruguay went about with legalizing marihuana, the institutional theory best serves to understand the model of policy implementation and regulation used by Uruguay. Marihuana was legalized as a result of bill proposal by President Jose Mujica, back in December 2012, while facing heavy opposition from civil society. It took almost a year, time in which the initiative was shelved, and passed through the two chambers of parliament with heavy debate. The manner in which the law was passed, despite the heavy opposition, stands testimony to the degree of centralization of policy making and level of coercion imposed on tertiary actors, inscribing itself within the parameters that make-up the guiding principles of political institutionalism. It is thus needles to emphasize the idea that the Institutional Theory will be the choice to explain the political behavior of Uruguay with regards to the marijuana legalization/regulation approach.


3.2 Overview of Public Choice theory

This sub-section of the Theoretical Framework will conduct an overview at the principles and understandings of the Public Choice Theory. Public Choice Theory developed as a branch of economics, emerging from the study of taxation and public spending.[83] It began its ascension in the 1950’s, and climaxed in attention in 1986, when James Buchanan, one of the two engineers of the theory (the other one was Gordon Tullock, his colleague), received a Nobel Prize in economics.[84]

The theory of Public choice uses the same principles that the economist make use to analyze the actions and behavior of people in the market area, and applies them to analyze the actions of people in collective decision making.[85] The primary assumption of this theory is that people in private marketplace act accordingly to their self-interest, and such the concept is extrapolated to characterize the behavior in decision making.[86]

The main focus of public choice economist has been to critique the failure of legislators. There have been many arguments from economists in the past to support the idea that government intervention does not beget the desired effect.[87] One example, in the U.S.A., is the Clean Air Act of 1977, a law which was designed to protect the citizens from excessive pollution, but was used by congressional representatives of the industrial states in the North of the U.S. to cut down the competition on the “Sunbelt”[88], curbing the economic growth of this area.[89] The research, conducted by Robert Crandall, showed that the northern congressmen used the amendments which stipulate that tighter emission controls are to be ensued in the undeveloped areas compared to that in more developed and more polluted areas, which generally are states in the East and Midwest, to cut down on the competition in the less developed South.[90]

Even if the focus of the public choice economists was the failure of legislators, they also indulged in creating recommendations to solve such failures. They argued that the best place to take government action, if needed, is at the local level, as much as possible.[91] Considering the skepticism that revolves around the principles of Public Choice Theory, it has been deemed as conservative or a libertarian approach to economics, in contrast with more liberal approaches, such as Keynesian economics.[92] The view of public choice adepts is a reflection of their “dissatisfaction with the implicit assumption, held by Keynesians, among others, that government effectively corrects market failures.”[93] But there also exceptions to the rule. Mancur Olson, for example, points out that larger interest groups find it troublesome “to gain and maintain the support of those who benefit from their lobbying.”[94] The argument for this statement is that it is easy to “free-ride on the efforts of others if they benefit automatically from those efforts”.[95]

A very important principle of Public Choice Theory is that agenda setting (the process of identifying the options at the disposal of voters, from which they choose what to vote for, and the order of those voting options) influences political outcomes.[96] This driving principle of the theory explains the role that initiatives and referenda play “as ways for voters to set agendas, opening up options that legislatures otherwise would ignore or vote down”.[97]

Additional to giving insight on how public decision making takes place today, Public Choice Theory gives analytical perspectives to understand the rules that “guide the collective decision-making process itself”.[98] The considerations of these rules represented the core of “The Calculus of Consent”, written by James Buchanan and Gordon Tullock, a central piece of Public Choice Theory. They began with the assumption that “a collective decision that is truly just – that is, a decision in the public interest – would be one that all voters support unanimously.”[99] While the concept of unanimity is a utopian view, the book managed to challenge the idea that majority decisions are “inherently fair”.[100] All in all, the principles present by Public Choice Theory do well in explaining the behavior of a down toward top approach, from grass-root level towards “the tip of the pyramid”, in which the self-interest of a group transforms into a policy, that would otherwise have been neglected by the ruling authorities, creating the possibility of economic profit.


3.2.1 Value of the Public Choice Theory for understanding marihuana legalization in Colorado 

This subsection will examine the link between Public Choice Theory and the way Colorado went about with legalizing and regulating marihuana. Since Public Choice Theory implies a bottom-top approach, it can be considered a valid explanatory model for Colorado, considering that the ballot of Amendment 64 was a popular initiative, and was passed by popular vote. The considerations of Coloradians were that of social and economic gain when they stood up for legalization, making it a self-interested, collective decision. The theory choice also makes the point that legislation initiatives from the government (federal or local), in relationship to marijuana legalization and regulation, have been non-existent and moreover, the “war on drugs” approach has represented the “solution” imposed by the government, which produced mostly negative consequences. The localization of the ballot initiative at a local level also adheres to the principles of the theory, since the law was voted at state level, and also considering the fact that it was legalized mainly to be taxed and produce profit that would be reinvested into social development, and implicitly generating economic growth. Considering the match in theory to the empirical reality, choosing the Public Choice Theory to explain the marijuana legalization process in Colorado is the most pertinent option.


3.3 Justification for the choice of the theoretical approach

The theoretical approach in this study is meant to explain the way in which each state went about legalizing marijuana, in comparison to each other. Even if both of the theoretical models could relate to both states (Institution Theory can also be valid for Colorado and vice versa with Public Choice for Uruguay), the choice of a dual-theoretical model is necessary since even if the two states are deemed comparable, the context in which the legalization occurred and the implementation, which is the central focus of this study, are totally apart. The dual-theoretical model approach chosen serves to explain the voting behavior and the implementation model practiced in the case of the approach used to legalize and regulate marijuana, separate for each state, since the end scopes and objectives of the laws are totally different for each state. This differentiation will be further outlined in the methodological approach.


3.4 Operational framework

This sub-section of the Theoretical Framework will populate the explanatory theories with the concepts that will be operated throughout the analysis. The general concepts are associated with the phenomenon of marihuana legalization and public policy implementation, while relating to the given theoretical framework. The relation between the theory and the concepts will also be presented and explained.

In the theoretical framework, two different theoretical models have been presented with the scope of explaining the two different approaches from which the legalization occurred in the two states. Legalizing a certain product/good/service, means that the legality status of it is shifted from being illegal to being legal, and is thus being transferred to a regulated form of access, conceived by the state that is legalizing that certain product. Legalizing marijuana refers to creating a legal framework in which the former illegal substance, known as marijuana, or the flower of the cannabis plant and/or its derivate products (hashish, edibles, concentrates, beverages etc.), is allowed to be consumed in a recreational manner, while also allowing, depending on the case, home cultivation, legal sales, amount that can be possessed/bought/sold.

The most important difference when considering marijuana legalization, is that this legalization occurs for all kinds of users, citizens above a certain age. This type of legalization is being named recreational, as it is permitted to be used at leisure by its consumers, while there are also other types of legalization, the most popular one being the medical legalization, case in which marijuana is destined to be used legally only by patients with a prescription for a physician. Decriminalization is the most common form of quasi-legal access to drugs, meaning that consuming and possessing a certain amount of drugs for personal use will not be deemed a criminal offense and no arrests and/or judicial procedures will be undertaken. It is very common among most western states and some southern hemispheric states, be it de facto or de jure. Trafficking and production remain illegal under a decriminalization regime, as they also do for a legalized marijuana market, if they are not operated within the boundaries of the law.

Regulating a certain product, in the case of this study marijuana, refers to creating the legislative framework necessary for that product to be able to circulate in a legal manner in the state. It creates the specific boundaries of availability for the legalized substance, while also creating parameters for amounts of possession, modality of distribution, forms of access for the substance and forms of authorization for retailers that are allowed to distribute and/or cultivate the plant.

In regards to the concepts used in analyzing the implementation procedures they pertain to each individual case. For Colorado the legalization approach was made in a bottom-top manner. The law was passed by means of popular vote, with voters presenting themselves on the chosen day of election to cast their option to legalize or not marijuana. The vote succeeded with a majority, thus shifting the legality status of marijuana from illegal to legal, pointing to a process that can be described as collective self-interest. The law was created as an amendment to the state constitution. The regulatory framework that was created around the law was designed to benefit the socioeconomic development of the state and to tax the newly legalized substance, as to create sustainable revenue for development.

Uruguay’s approach to legalizing marijuana entailed a top-down approach. The law was a governmental proposition, with the president at the head of it. The proposition encountered severe opposition from the public, creating a vacuum in the way of law. It also encountered opposition in the parliament, but was eventually voted through. The law was not of popular demand, but was imposed by the government and presidential administration as ruling institutions of the state. The coercive nature of the law and the opposition it faced make it an obvious indicator for the relation with the theory at base. The regulatory framework created presented with over-regulatory and constraining measures that were designed to have the state at the center of the trade, a state-centered approach with a powerful grip over the market, with a weak monetization scheme.

The operational framework presented has uncovered the concepts which relate to theory and will help shape the analysis. The relation between concept and theory has also been exposed and given the pertinence needed in order to be considered a valid approach. In the following sub-section the research design will be presented and matched to theory and concepts.


3.5 Research design 

The following sub-sections will present the components of the research design. The first section will be covered by methodology, the second one will be comprised out of analytical approaches, and the last section will cover data collection techniques. The compound of these three dimensions is the research design and it will be adjusted accordingly to the theory and the concepts presented.


3.5.1 Methodology

This sub-section will cover the choice in methodology and will describe its main principles. The choice of methodological approach for this particular study is the “Most different systems design”[101]. Two of the contributors to this methodological approach, Adam Przeworski and Henry Teune, describe it in their book, “The Logic of Comparative Social Inquiry”.[102] The idea behind the most different systems design is to look in a comparative way, not at the system itself, but at the variations that occur a lower level, that of individual actors, groups, local communities, social classes, occupations, institutions and so on and so forth.[103] In this type of design, as opposed to its “twin”, “the most similar systems design”[104], the level at which the “relevant factors operate remains open throughout the process of inquiry”[105], meaning that the level at which the analysis is undertaken can shift from macro to micro, from individual to group, from institution to employee or serviced citizen, etc.

To first argument to justify the choice of methodology is the fact the study is a comparative one. One of the strongest arguments for using this type of methodology is represented by the many differences in terms of systemic behavior among the two chosen cases, but the similarity of the procedure itself, that of legalizing marijuana. Even if the process of legalizing marijuana is existent in each case, the discrepancies between the implementation procedures are the ones in question, in order to create an understanding of the degree of effectiveness of each law. The analytical procedures will seek out to spot these difference by putting together, under several sets of values encased in different analytical dimensions, data from each case and to assess their relevance and give an overall score to the aspects under scrutiny. All in all, the heterogeneity of the cases under study are a reflection of theoretical principals of the methodology[106], and give pertinent cause to its utilization in the present study.


3.5.2 Analytical framework

This sub-section will present the choice in analytical procedures. The reason behind it is to choose the right concept sets and group them into analytical dimensions that are relevant for the cases that are being studies, and will help bring out to light the information needed to prove the hypothesis.

The choice of analytical model is comprised out of principled drawn from “A Framework for Analyzing Public Policies: Practical Guide”[107], a public policy analysis framework designed for public health policies, but also adaptable to other types of policies. The main analytical principle behind the whole scheme of analysis is to split it into two distinct dimensions, one which represents the effects of the policy under study, and another to refer to the implementation process.[108] Once created, this divide further ramifies into three other sub-divisions for each analytical dimension. As such, the “effects” dimension splits into: 1. Effectiveness – the effects that the policy has on the targeted problem; 2. Unintended effects – the unexpected effects of the policy; 3. Equity – the effects that policy has on different groups.[109] The “implementation” dimension branches out as following: 1. Cost – the financial cost of the policy (both for the state and for the other stake holders, as well as the financial gains of the state and the stake holders); 2. Feasibility – the technical feasibility of the policy (availability of required resources, conformity with existing legislation etc.); 3. Acceptability – the opinion of different stake holders on the policy (it is the dimension that is impacted by all of the above, being the most subjective one, since it deals with personals attitudes).[110] The overall conglomerate created by unifying all of the above dimensions is represented by the overall durability of a policy, or to put it plainly, how long will it last, and how many interventions shall be made upon it to bring to an acceptable and functional format.

The choice in analytical model is justified by the many dimensions and the clear differentiation that is being made among them. Having many dimensions entails to existence of many parameters to choose from and analyze and the existence of a decent number of values from which to choose and utilize. Given the methodological structure that is dependent on the existence of many value sets and heterogeneity among these values, the choice of the present analytical model is a most pertinent option. 

3.5.3 Data collection

This final sub-section will explore the data sources and their collection. The complexity of the study is reliant on a mixed-method design, meaning that both quantitative and qualitative data will be used. The qualitative data is necessary to understand the overall behavior and attitudes of individuals and groups towards the legalization of marijuana, while quantitative data is required to make a picture on the effectiveness of the law on a macro-level.

The data for this study, especially the quantitative sets, were extracted from reports and data sheets, .xml files and/or online data sheets. The main sources for the quantitative data are the government branches and the ministries that deal with the regulation of marijuana, and/or other ministries or institutions that are connected, even indirectly, to marijuana regulation. Also websites of international institution such as, The World Bank, The IMF, The UNODC, UNICEF etc., have been used to extract data sets. Some data was extracted by using Microsoft Excel mathematical functions in order to determine, means, averages, sums and to compare different columns with each other in order to extrapolate the required informational set. Quantitative data was also extracted from other studies on the issue.

Qualitative data sources were comprised by studies in the field of marijuana legalization. Studies of the phenomenon, for both Colorado and Uruguay, were used to gain an understanding of the attitudes, feelings, actions of the different groups, individuals and institutions in regards to marijuana legalization, and to also understand the dynamics created in between these stake-holders and the regulation process.

All of the data sets and studies were extracted from the internet in the form of .xml data sheets, .pdf files and .docx/doc files. Considering the limited sources of funding and the overall coverage of the study, first hand data collection procedures were deemed impossible, and relying on taking data out of the internet was the only feasible procedure of collection.


Results and Discussion

4.1 Socio-politico-economic climate. Context analysis.

 To best understand the way the cannabis regulation policies were constructed, one must first look upon the context in which they spurred. On one hand, there is a U.S. state, Colorado (considered by the GINI Index a high income state)[111], a self-sustaining entity within a federal state, with its own constitution, government and legislation corps, able to emit laws that best serve its interest. On the other hand, there is Uruguay, a South-American state, also considered by the GINI Index to be a high income state[112]. Considering the premises presented it shall be inferred that the two units are deemed compatible for a systematic comparison.

The following sub-chapters will look at, comparatively, from three different perspectives, social, political and economic, at how the two state entities stand. It is vital to assess the context in which the laws were enacted, to better understand the way the “behaved” and the results they produced, overall. A thorough analysis of the effects and implementation of these policies requires, foremost, the existence of a framework in which they evolve. To be able to properly assess and gain a structural view of this framework, one must take into account all dimensions and dynamics of the relation between citizen and state. The first part of this context analysis will focus on the status of each states’ economy, the second will make reference to the political aspect, while the third will take a look at the social dynamics within each state.


4.1.1 Economic context

In 2015, Colorado gathered a total income of $275.107.294, ranking 22nd among the U.S. states, a GDP of $305.9 billion (18th in the U.S.) with a per capital personal income (PCPI) of $50.410. Compared to ten years before, the PCPI was $38.665, ranking 11th among U.S. states, and throughout the ten year period registered a compound annual growth rate of 2.7 percent.[113]

Preliminary 2016 statistics for Uruguay, show a $70.0 billion GDP and a $20.556 PCPI, ranking 41st in the world according to the 2016 Index of Economic Freedom. The compound growth rate is at the 5.4 % for a 5 year period.[114]

A quick overview of the statistics paint a clear picture of the economical statute of both countries. Considering the total population count of both entities, 5.546.574 for CO, U.S.A.[115] and 3.4 million for Uruguay[116], and taking into account their respective GDP’s, a clear discrepancy takes shape. Uruguay is at this point at a lower stage of income than Colorado, with an added Purchasing Power Parity (PPP)[117], of $18.71 to the standard $1 of the U.S.A.[118], but ranks higher, in the last five years as total compound growth.

Concerning the approach towards the economical aspect, the two entities present again with certain disparities. While Colorado follows under the open-market, neo-liberal U.S.A model, Uruguay tends to a more protectionist form of economic policy-set, with substantial state involvement and deregulatory measures for telecommunications, energy and public utilities sectors.[119]

All in all, the discrepancies presented in both economic policies and in economic gains have a role in shaping the scope of cannabis regulatory policies. The impact of the economic mind-set on the drafting of the policies is a powerful one, as the policies themselves are shaped, to some extent, around these mind-sets. The economic statute of each state plays an important role in determining how each state will react to a legalization policy and how its system will fare, economically, in face of these new laws. It is relevant for the study to gain notion of the economic capabilities of each entity in order to infer on the dynamics within each states’ economy that will be created as a result of the legalization laws.

4.1.2 Political context

The ruling bodies and powers of each entity are key players in the policy-shaping mechanism. The legislative, executive and judicial powers are the main bodies within a state that regulate and adopt any type of policy.

The regime type plays a fundamental role in the way policies are enacted. While both Uruguay and the U.S.A are represented by a presidential regime, with the president being both the head of the state and the head of the government, the comparison level will be drawn to the level of the Governor of the State (of Colorado), which retains most of the attributes of the president, so in most of the respects he is “the president of the state”. This level of comparison presents itself with a certain similitude in respect to the executive powers of the two states.

The legislative power, is represented, in Uruguay by the “General Assembly of Uruguay”, while Colorado has its own General Assembly. Both of these bodies have two chambers each (upper and lower), for the “General Assembly of Uruguay” there are, the Chamber of Deputies and the Chamber of Senators, while for the “General Assembly of Colorado”, the House of Representatives and the Colorado Senate. In terms of direct democracy, Uruguay allows its citizens to contest the laws that have been approved by the Parliament by means of a referendum, or to change the constitution by means of a plebiscite.[120] The state of Colorado offers its citizens the possibility to initiate laws and to referendum on those who are not pleasing, in addition to having the power to recall their votes for office holders.[121]

The judicial branches in each entity are represented by, the Supreme Court of the State, Courts of Appeal and ordinary Courts, in Uruguay, while in CO there are: the Colorado Supreme Court, Court of Appeals, district courts, county courts, water courts and municipal courts. The big difference here is in the federal obligations that the judicial system in CO is subdued to by the Federal Courts, whereas Uruguay is a stand-alone judicial entity.

The most important difference in this data set is represented by the extent of how permissive the direct-democracy apparatus is. While Colorado equipped its citizens with more legislative initiative freedoms, Uruguay is being somewhat restrictive on this aspect, which shows a higher degree of state dirigisme, fact which is a crucial aspect to how public policy is being done.

4.1.3 Social and local context

The status of the social system bears important significance in regards to any policy procedures. The input provided by society is one of the pillars of foundation for any healthy policy initiative and project. The quality of life and social dynamics play a crucial role in shaping the overall outcome of any policy enactment and implementation procedure, as the feedback provided by society is an a direct relationship with their overall self-esteem and perception of the state as provider of well-fare.

This sub-chapter will be divided into three, distinct, sub-divisions: welfare provision, criminality and social-dynamics. Each aspect of the social dimension is a necessary “look-to” since they impact directly on the way the laws are perceived and accepted by the general public, and, in truth, determine their overall level of durability. Welfare provision

The average life-expectancy for a Uruguayan is roughly 76.81 years[122], while a citizen of Colorado averages around 80.20 years[123]; the total fertility rate is 1.84 children/woman born[124] for Uruguay, while in the state of Colorado that figure is 1.77[125]. The percentage of population with access to improved means sanitation is 99.5 % for Uruguay[126], being one of the few South-American states that is able to provide almost all of its citizens with fresh water; Colorado provides access to sanitation resources to 99% of its population, according to national figures.[127]

The healthcare system is one of the pillars of welfare provision. In Uruguay, health expenditures cover 8% of the GDP, the physician density rate is 3.74 physicians/1.000 population (2008)[128], hospital bed density of 3 beds/1000 population (2011), while the adult obesity prevalence rate is 26.55 %(2014)[129]. Health care expenditures in Colorado amount to $10.8 billion[130], physician density rate is 2.6/1000 population[131], hospital bed density is 14.9 beds/1000 population[132] and obesity prevalence rate is 21.3%,[133] one of the lowest in the U.S.A.

Another pillar of welfare provision is the potency of the educational system. The expenditure of the Uruguayan government on education is 4.5 % of its GDP (2011)[134], while Colorado planned its expenses for 2016 at $15.3 billion. The literacy rate, understood as people over 15 years that can read and write, is at 98.1 % for Uruguay and 90 % (prose literacy skills measurement in 2003)[135] for Colorado, U.S.A. High school graduation rate is 90.4 %, in Colorado for population 25 and over (3.449.352), with 37.3 % of the total also holding a bachelor’s degree.[136]

Another relevant dimension to the welfare provision mechanism is represented by the quality and provision of social services. At a first glance a good indicator towards judging this aspect would be the poverty headcount ratio, which is 9.7% for Uruguay, in 2014, at national poverty lines,[137] while Colorado goes up to 13.0% in 2014, 16th among the U.S. states.[138] Regarding child protection, both entities score 100% on children under age 5 with registered births.[139] Spending rates for the public pension system amount to 8.2 % of GDP[140] for Uruguay and 1.86 % for Colorado[141], while the percentage of retirees of the total population amounts to 14.33 % for Colorado[142] and 22.89 % for Uruguay[143], in 2014.

In regards to the data presented above, no clear discrepancy emerges between the two constituencies, the welfare provision status is roughly equally rated and in high standards according to the percentages presented. The only stringent difference is regarding the efficiency of the educational system, with Uruguay surpassing Colorado in this aspect. Overall given the positive status of the welfare provision mechanisms, it can inferred that this aspect will not impact in a negative way with regards to policy creation and implementation, although the increased potency of the Uruguayan educational system is definitely impacting on the perception, attitude and judging capacities of its citizens in regards to any law imposed or proposed.

Welfare provision impacts directly on social attitudes, the better the welfare provision, the higher the overall quality of life. The parameters of the quality of life are a direct impact on the way the state is perceived by its citizens, as being capable or incapable of satisfying their needs, ergo, their desire of acceptance towards a new law, especially one that regulates, a former illegal substance. Criminality

Criminality is a huge factor at play within the drafting and implementation of these policies, taking into consideration the fact that the substance that is being regulated was illegal and represents part of the black-market profits being generated. Not only the drug-trafficking aspect of criminality is relevant, but also crime rates overall are being affected and in turn affect the way the social climate plays around these policies.

Uruguay has one of the lowest crime rates in Latin America, being a relatively peaceful country, but the last few years have presented themselves with a rise in crime activity related to drug-trafficking and gang activity on a small scale.[144] The largest contribution to the higher insecurity levels, as of the 2000’s, is represented by the introduction within country’s black market of “an unprocessed cocaine derivative known as pasta base” in the early 2000’s.[145] Also, the fact that most of the cannabis comes from Paraguay (90%), puts a further punch into the context drug regulation since Uruguay has to beat the price and present a higher quality product from its own “garden”, to be able to crack down on illegal marihuana trafficking.[146] Cannabis seizures have been on a fluctuating trend, with 2.160 kg’s in 2013, 1.250 kg’s in 2014 and topping with 2015 at 2.521 kg’s. [147]

As far as criminality goes in Colorado, the picture is a bit more dynamic, as the nature of violent crime is more diverse and has a higher dimension than Uruguay. Even though it’s not among the top states when it comes to violent crime rates, Colorado is no stranger to its effects. It has 2.8 murder rate per 100.000 people[148], ranking some decent positions below the national average. In the lines of total violent crimes committed per 100.000 residents, the rate is 308, ranking 28th among all the 50 states, somewhere in the middle.[149] Drug related crime has been on the rise in recent years, with a clear rise in the trend of Drug/Narcotics violations, within Denver city and county (2.349 – 2013, 2.638 – 2014, 3.003 – 2015)[150].

Overall, as far as total criminality rate goes, Colorado topples of Uruguay, with a higher percentage of violent crime. As far as drug violations go, both constituencies seem to be having their fair share of problems, with Uruguay’s slate being characterized by a powerful outward trafficking influx from Paraguay, regarding cannabis, and other neighbors when taking into account the full spectrum of drugs being moved through the black-market and with less of a problem of internal drug production, whereas Colorado, is confronting with domestic issues of illegal production and larger-scale violence related to drug offenses.

Criminality plays an important role in this study. It is a direct indicator of the efficiency of the legalization laws, the more effective they are, the more positive impacts there are going to be, and vice-versa. Since the marijuana-market was firstly a part of the black-market, the criminality rates are the prime sources of indication that show if the policies are going in the right direction. Social dynamics 

The interactions between the different social beds within a state is of great value to the study. Where the mass of people is more homogenous in regards to beliefs and values, the outcome and attitudes towards a certain policy are easier to predict and thus better control, to a certain extent. Where the social climate is more heterogeneous and the social discrepancies have a higher rate and prevalence, issues are bound to arise when implementing any type of social related policy.

The racial component is a vital part of any social dynamics structure. Ethnical composition within a state is an important indicator when trying to assert a judgement on the level of homogeneity. In Uruguay, the composition is as follows: 88% White, 8% Mestizo, 4% Black, while Amerindians are practically non-existent.[151] Colorado, on the other hand, is more varied in ethnical groups and significantly differs in percentages: 69.7 % White, 20.8 % Hispanic, 3.8 % African American, 2.7 % Asian, 3.0 % other ethnical groups.[152] When judging the dynamics between different racial groups, one must first take into account the differences that emerge in between them. One such indicator is the racial gap in income. In the U.S.A., in 2013, the median income for a white (non-hispanic) family was at $55.800, while for a non-white it was somewhere around $33.600, with a considerable difference of $22.200 (almost 40%).[153] In Uruguay, the percentiles of its ethnic groups living at national poverty line is: Whites 21.8%, Afros 48.2 %, Indigenous 31.6 %, with significant percentile gaps in between them.[154]

In both cases, the issues of racial inequality is obvious, given the percentiles. The level of racial disparity is concerning, given the fact that some policies may affect different racial groups in different ways, and thus, the cleavage created might disadvantage the ones that are less fortunate.


4.2 The cannabis regulation policies in Uruguay and Colorado, U.S.A.

In this sub-chapter the focus will shift towards the policies themselves and the way they took shape. The analysis will look at the attitudes of the citizens towards marijuana pre-legalization and the way it was regulated up to that point, at the way the bills were voted into laws, and the target-problems these policies were meant to solve. These three perspective will offer a much needed view on the laws themselves, and provide an understanding of their scope and form.


4.2.1 Attitudes towards marihuana and its statute pre-legalization 

The history behind the law is always an important picture the needs to be looked upon. The attitudes of citizens, as well as other stakeholders to cannabis use and legality have been a fundamental pillar upon which regulation policies have been built. The preceding status of cannabis legality and use also helped shape the climate in which these policies took root.

Colorado was one of the first states to decriminalize marijuana in 1975.[155] In 2000, voters passed Amendment 20 (54 % in favor) to the state Constitution, legalizing marijuana for medicinal purposes. Patients where thus, allowed to possess up to two ounces of medicinal marijuana and grow up to six plants, with no more than three of them being able to flower at the same time, under approved medical consent.[156] Having begun a reformation in the sense, it was clear that, at some point in time, its legality statute would be further improved upon.

Uruguay’s situation was quite different. Legalizing marijuana in the South-American state was a tough cookie to swallow by its citizens. Even though the constitution deemed it legal for its citizens to “possess an undefined reasonable quantity of any drug for personal consumption”[157], it still imposed an illegality statute towards production and transportation. The initial proposal to legalize cannabis, from present Jose Mujica in June 2012, met with a big wave of criticism from the opposition, accusing him and his government of trying to “steamroll a controversial legislation without engaging critics”[158], using their majority in the National Assembly.[159] A Cifra poll, made in December 2012, revealed that 64 % of Uruguayans opposed marijuana legalization, 10 % were without opinion on the matter, while only 26 % approved of it.[160] The situation here was quite different from that of Colorado, given the huge opposition by the populace and rival politicians, making it a tug-of-war scenario with possible negative repercussions ramifying in many directions.


4.2.2 Enactment of the cannabis regulation laws in Colorado and Uruguay

Not only are the laws that regulate cannabis under scrutiny here, but also the way they were voted into being, as the procedure itself is relevant to the acceptability and effects of the policy. On November 6, 2012, by a popular initiative ballot (55 % for), Colorado Amendment 64 succeeded in amending the state Constitution, reforming the state policy on marijuana use, cultivation and sales.[161] The law addresses adults over 21, where the age legality threshold is set, as well as cultivation for purpose of commercialization and personal use (up to six plants), the possibility to possess no more than one ounce for residents and half ounce for non-state residents.[162] Legal sales began on the 1st of January, 2014, when the first retail shops opened across state.

Unlike Colorado, Uruguay’s method of voting the policy didn’t take into consideration the desire of its voters. According to a survey done in 2014, by AmericasBarometer, only 34 % of the population was in approval towards the new liberalization policy, while 60.7 % manifested negative attitudes towards it.[163] After the initial announcement of the plan to regulate cannabis, by President Jose Mujica in 2012, the bill was officially submitted to the Parliament for voting. Even though Mujica held majority in the both houses of the Parliament with his party, Frente Amplio, he “tabled the bill in December 2012, citing the almost two thirds of the Uruguayan population who opposed the legislation.”[164] After a slow progression of the law, with added power from strong media campaigns concocted by local and international NGO’s who teamed up with the government to inform the public about the positive aspects of regulating cannabis, the bill was put to vote in the lower house of parliament in July, 2013. It passed the lower house after a thirteen hour debate, and after five months it also managed to pass from the upper house. [165] Even though the attitudes towards legalizing cannabis were mostly negative, a survey conducted by Factum in October 2013, found that, if given a choice between allowing Uruguayans to have access to cannabis by state procedures, opposed to getting it from black-market suppliers, the majority (78%) preferred that the state be in charge of the cannabis trade, opposed to the 5 % who thought it should still remain a black-market operation.[166] On December 23rd, 2013, President Jose “Pepe” Mujica, transformed bill 19.172 into law by ratifying it, making Uruguay the first country in the world to have fully regulated a legal recreational cannabis market. The law went into effect as of May 6th, 2014.[167]

The law gives three modalities of access to cannabis: home cultivation/autocultivo, which allows users to grow six marijuana plants per household, with annual yield of 480 grams, or 40 grams per month; Cannabis clubs are the second alternative, in which a number of 15-45 members can associate and can farm up to 99 plants at specific locations, with individuals not being able to receive more than 480 grams per year from the club; the third option, sales through pharmacies, would allow users to purchase a maximum of 40 grams of marijuana per month from pharmacies authorized by the state, for a maximum of 480 per month, for a price of ~$1.[168] All of the above means of procuring marihuana entail that the users/growers register with the IRCCA (Instituto de Regulacion y Control del Cannabis) and in the case of pharmacy purchases, also with the Ministry of Public Health.[169]

The modality in which each law came into being bears a distinct signature. A public vote vs. a presidential bill passed through the parliament without full public support, gives an interesting “taste” to the way the cannabis issue is perceived and the way the states function in regards to public policy voting. It shows a clear discrepancy in the level of state involvement in public policy procedures and a divide in the ideological ordination, a socio-liberal approach vs. a state-centered-dirigisme.

4.2.3 Policy target-problems

Bearing in mind the way the laws were voted in, one must also consider why they were enacted in such a way and what problems involving the cannabis issues did they want to tackle? Uruguay sought to: improve the statute of public health and diminish the risks that were associated with cannabis consumption; to “promote the dissemination of information, education, and prevention for the consumption and negative consequences of problematic drug use; to provide protection to the population from the negative effects of illegal drug trafficking, and to “attack the devastating social, health, and economic consequences of psychoactive substance abuse”, and thus, to reduce the size of the black-market and organized crime enclaves operating with drugs.[170] One dimension comes to mind when observing the intended problems to be solved, the social one. All of the problems that are intended to be solved revolve around the social sphere, economically there is little benefit here, considering the price proposed for a gram of cannabis (~1$).

Colorado, on the other hand, had other things in mind. Since the measure was enacted by popular demand, it didn’t come with a specific set of intended areas of effect. The main issue that it aimed at doing was monetizing the substance, for economic gains and creating a new and legal market, to get the money of the streets and into state coffers. It had in mind creating as much revenue as possible from marihuana, by putting it in the same category as tobacco and alcohol and taxing it as such, and putting the money it gained from taxing into areas that needed more investment, mainly in grants for the educational system. The scheme here bears a different signature, a distinct liberal approach to monetize it and gain profit were there was none before, and to reinvest it to benefit socially, a socio-liberal approach.

The divide created in between the two constituencies, at level of ideology and intended consequences for the law make for an interesting debate. The discrepancies in the methodology that was used in drafting, voting and implementing the laws will determine their overall effectiveness. So how effective were they and how durable will they be overall? For that, the next part of this thesis will assess their overall durability, in the form of effects and implementation, and try to scope out which one was the best at doing what it was intended to, in the given context.

4.3 Policy effects in Colorado and Uruguay

In the following subchapters, the overall effects of the policies will be analyzed in their given contexts. As the contexts themselves have been presented, it is time to see how the laws shaped and played with the dynamics of the states. Three overall dimension will be assessed: 1. Effectiveness – how effective, zero-effective (represents the possibility of providing of a zero effect, nothing changes for the good or bad) or non-effective has a policy been, in terms of: law frameworks, impact on social life and economy, increase/decrease in consumption and illegal operations associated with black-market practices etc.; 2. The unintended effects of these policies, which come in the lines of “spill-over”[171] effects into areas that were not predicted at first, or have been unseen, both positive and negative; 3. Equity, which is vital in assessing the way the policy impacted on different groups and minorities. Putting all these dimension together will offer a picture of the effects the policies had on the states and will stand testimony to their ability to endure the test of time, in order words will be indicative of their overall durability.


4.3.1 Effectiveness

In an effort to find out the overall “score” of a policy, one must take into account if it has reached its desired goals, if it has produced positive effects, or if not, if it had produce negative effects, or an absence of these effects, and moreover to assess the existence of intermediate effects where there are no ultimate effects to look at. Uruguay sought to cut off drug trafficking and imports (marihuana), illegal production of marihuana, and to create social responsibility for drug usage and reduce the health risks associated with it, without monetizing it (except for the proposed pharmacy project and only in a small measure, not meant for revenue collection[172]) and giving market freedom. Colorado went about to heavily monetize the drug, creating a fully functional legal free-market around cannabis, while also reinvesting tax money to resolve other issues (public education, public health).

To be able to properly assess the chain of effects for each policy, a schematic shall be used to make a visual portrait of the process. It will include the policy, its intermediate effects, and the ultimate effect, the goal. Operational frameworks for the laws


The operational frameworks that have been constructed to serve the goals of the law are the first aspect to be taken under scrutiny. By operational framework one understands the limits in which the legality of the law operates. The Uruguayan perspective, being a state-centered approach, gives three modalities of access to cannabis to its citizens, with mandatory registration implied with the IRCCA (Institudo Regulador de Cannabis). Unlike its northern counterpart, the South American state only planned on allowing to grow and to purchase cannabis its citizens, without giving the possibility of legal acquisition to tourists. Colorado, on the other hand, permits visitors to the state to buy and possess up to a half ounce of marihuana. The idea to only provide for its citizens makes it even more a social type of measure than an economic one, with added emphasis on the goal of improving public health. The age limit after one can purchase or grow marihuana is 18. The first modality of access is the possibility to “grow it for yourself” (autocultivo), in which case, and individual in a given household, can grow up to six plants per year, with a maximum yield of 480 grams per annum, meaning a 40 grams per month maximum allowed to produce and possess. The second modality in which one can procure is to associate with a minimum of other 15 to 45 individuals to form a “cannabis cultivation club”, with the possibility of growing up to 99 plants per annum. In this case the maximum allowed per individual stays the same, 40 grams per month for a maximum of 480 grams per year. The last modality to procure cannabis, is through accredited pharmacies across the state, with the same parameters on the quantity allowed. The only issues with this method represents the fact that, as up till this point in time, no pharmacy has been accredited to sell the product, representing a draw-back in the legislation. Recently, the Uruguayan government has given a green light to two private companies to start growing marijuana for the state to sell in pharmacies, with a maximum allowed potency of 14 % THC concentration.[173]

The U.S. state of Colorado has worked around providing a strictly monetization type of framework, while also allowing its citizens to grow up to six plants per household. The age limit to purchase any marihuana produce is 21 years. First of all to be able to grow or sell cannabis for commercial gains, one must submit a form to the Department of Revenue, which is in charge of the cannabis trade. As such, any grower, store-owner, product manufacturer and testing facility is registered with the local government and requires a sales license. According to the data presented above, the regulatory schemes for each entity were created accordingly to their needs. Uruguay created a tight network of access, exerting an increased amount of control over the cultivation, sales and distribution, to be able to further its agenda of trying to tightly control the access to cannabis, while Colorado offered the leisure of a liberal approach to the matter, with heavy taxation, to be able fully profit from its endeavor. In accordance to their scheme of operations, Colorado allowed foreigners to purchase marijuana products, creating a “marijuana bases tourism” with further economic benefits, while Uruguay strictly forbids for non-Uruguayans to purchase or grow cannabis, putting further emphasis on the controlling mechanism it wishes to develop. In regards to the regulatory frameworks, both of them stand testimony and abide to the end scope of their respective laws, making them, theoretically, effective. Efficiency in producing desired effects

Moving up the chain of effects to the next steps, the numbers start to paint a picture of what have the laws produced up to this point in time. In Uruguay, the progress has been somewhat slow in terms of adherence to the stipulations of the law. With no data for 2014, the number of authorized cannabis grower club for 2015 was barely at 3, after more than a year of legality, while the first few months of 2016 (actualized 1st of May 2016) saw a significant increase to 13 clubs.[174] The same is valid for the autocultivadores, with 3.150 being registered in 2015, while the latest figures show an increase to 4.814.[175] At this point in time there are still no pharmacies that have been authorized by the state to sell cannabis. The Uruguayan government only recently contracted two companies to start cultivating cannabis for the state, in order to distribute to pharmacies for sales, yet the time when these will be made available is still unclear and no official position has been made towards this aspect.

On the northern side of the Americas, the U.S. tackled the matter differently. Even if the law was passed at the beginning of 2013, the regulatory framework for the cannabis market was thoroughly designed and retail sales only began on the 1st of January 2014. As of that point, the revenue collected by the state grew increasingly larger. In 2014, the estimated grand total of revenue gained by state from all retail marijuana taxes topped at ~$44 million, in 2015 it almost tripled, up to ~$135 million, while the first three months of 2016, raked in already ~$33 million.[176]

A discrepancy emerges when putting the two data sets face to face. While their frameworks are both good and theoretically suited to the context, Uruguay had no visible effects for almost two years since its law went into effect, while Colorado started off well, but not to its projected $60 million in the first year of 2014. Colorado climbed nicely and raked in a lot of profit from taxing cannabis, all in all a win-win strategy, making money where there was none before, sending out a clear message that the policy had a much beneficial effect in this sense. Uruguay, on the other hand, struggled to uphold its case, shambling in numbers and showing very little coherency in implementation for at least a year, a clear negative effect. The numbers picked up slowly in 2015 and afterwards gained a rounder shape at the start of 2016. Considering the effects at this particular stage in the chain, Colorado managed to topple off Uruguay in terms of effectiveness. Other aspects regarding this stage will be discussed in the “implementation” section of the study. Education on cannabis use

Education on cannabis use is one of the proposed course of action of the Uruguayan policy towards reducing the health risks associated with cannabis consumption. Up to this point in time no coherent framework for the education on risks and harms associated with usage of marijuana have been developed, it is however stipulated in the law as one of the means by which the overall health improvement shall be obtained. As there are no effects associated with this step in the chain, no judgement can be drawn, making it a “zero effect”. However, before the bill was passed in parliament, media campaigns designed by NGO’s and the Uruguayan government were promoted to inform the public of the benefits of cannabis legalization. The main points of this campaign were: “1. address insecurity and reduce users’ exposure to more harmful drugs; 2. fix hypocrisy in the existing legal framework to enable users to grow the drug; 3. improve health by increasing access to medicinal cannabis.”[177] The overall effect in changing the attitudes of citizens towards the bill were insignificant, as most poles conducted during that time found out.”[178] Criminality rate fluctuations

Colorado pro-cannabists predicted that the law will save the state a decent amount of money by cutting law enforcement expenditures associated with processing cannabis related offences. Data taken from the Colorado Court system suggests that arrests for marijuana possession dropped a staggering 84 % since 2010.[179] In 2010 there were 9.011 arrests processed for marijuana possession, while the same data set from 2014 shows only 1.464 arrests for this offense.[180] Considering the cost for one such arrest procedure is roughly $300, a rough estimate shows that $2.26 million were saved in the process, just in 2014.[181] Also, in the same time interval, arrests for cultivating and distribution of cannabis have dropped a considerable 90 %.[182] Even if these numbers show a drastic decrease in processed arrests related to possession, cultivation and distribution, it is also fair to consider the negative aspects. Over a three year period time span, after marijuana was legalized, arrests for public consumption have constantly risen and drug/narcotics violations have also risen, though not as a direct consequence of cannabis legalization and many of them being unrelated to cannabis (2.349 drug violations in 2013, 2.638 in 2014 and 3.003 in 2015).[183] All in all, the effects in this stage in the chain, balance of each other, the negative ones with the positives. Even if a decrease in money spent on processing arrests is evident, number of arrests for public consumption grew, but judging the overall benefits vs. flaws of this aspect, it was overall, slightly positive.

The desired impact of the regulation framework in Uruguay on organized crime, especially regarding drugs, was to lower the amount of external influx of cannabis originating from Paraguay, which represented 90 % of the total, while strictly controlling the internal production so that local, illegal, cultivation operations will be stomped. The numbers on this particular aspect do not look promising. Looking at the number of cannabis plants that were seized throughout the last couple of years, the situation is as such: 2013 – 261 plants, 2014 – 621 plants, 2015 – 1.058 plants.[184] The rising trend in home cultivation, aspect endorsed by the law, probably accounts for this growing number, and judging from the number of registered growers and cannabis club and the rate it “grew”, put against the rise in amount of plants seized per annum, the logical conclusion would be that people liked the idea of growing, but not the idea of compliance and registration with the state authorities. Given the status of this trend here, the effectiveness of this step is mostly negative. The inability to enforce the measures prescribed in the law only shows a lack of implementation logistics and a clear “backfire” of the law. Even with several thousands of registered growers, the numbers still spiked, revealing a clear case of disrespect for authority and more likely reluctance to cooperate with the state from its citizens.

In regards to cannabis seizures, understood as quantity of cannabis buds seized, the numbers show an interesting picture. In 2013 the size of the total capture was 2.160, 83 kg vs. 1.455 in 2011, a clear rise from two years before.[185] In 2014, the first year of legal cannabis, the number went down to 1.250 kg’s, an observable improvement, with the quantity of seizures almost being halved.[186] The big surprise, however, comes in 2015, when one would expect a further drop, or a mild rise, the number doubles to 2.521 kg’s, topping off the record in 2013.[187] What happened to this particular aspect here is at this point an enigma, one which is not under scrutiny here and may require further research as to fully understand its nature, but it does not make the object of this particular study. While an initial decrease in cannabis seizures may be regarded as a positive effect, the fact that the respective number doubled in the following year, is even more negative. It remains to be seen how these numbers will fluctuate over time, but at this point, with the data available, no other conclusion can be drawn but a dire failure of the law with regards to this aspect. Reinvestment of tax money in Colorado

The fact that Colorado promised to reinvest the money in schools and public health, shape the policy into a social element as well. Most of the details of this picture shall be discussed under the “costs” category, but to judge the effectiveness of this step a quick look at some figures shall be taken.

Since marijuana started earning Colorado money, as of the 1st of January 2014, part of the Excise Tax has been given to the BEST Program (Building Excellent Schools Today). In 2014 a total of $3.012.872 was spilled away into this grant, while in 2015 the grand total given away was at $23.949.565.[188]

From the Marijuana Sales Tax, several agencies of the state benefit of it, including: the Department of Public Health and Environment, the Department of Human Services, the Department of Health Care Policy and Financing, and the Colorado Department of Education, funding programs that deal with public awareness and youth prevention activities.[189] With clear increase in the amount of tax money generated ($8.237.461 in FY 2014-2015 vs. $14.000.806 in FY 2015-2016)[190], an increase in amount of money provided to these programs is there. Given the increase of funds awarded, a clear, positive, effect can be noticed in this sense. Marihuana consumption and Public Health in Uruguay

Bearing in mind the number of cannabis plants and marihuana seizures in Uruguay, presented above, the rise in marijuana consumption is as clear as day. The rise in marijuana consumption, over a period of fifteen years, is speaking for itself. While in 2001 only 5.3 % of the population consumed marijuana at least once in their lifetime, in 2014 that number is 22.1 %, showing a clear trend of increased marijuana consumption. Correlating this percentage here with the number given regarding the seizure quantities, the attempt of the government to lower marijuana consumption is also, a total failure. This in turn, does not necessarily mean that there will be increased health risks associated with increased marijuana consumption. A huge load of studies have confirmed that marijuana consumption, in normal parameters does not pose any health risks, other than those associated with lung damage by the smoke itself, be it marijuana or tobacco, and only presents itself with the possibility in causing a psychological type of addiction, when associated with chronic use, thus becoming a compulsory activity.[191] Rates of marihuana related crimes as part of the grand total crime rates in Colorad

The aspect of crime rate in Colorado after Amendment 64 is the most controversial one. Some studies report a decrease in crime, while others report an increase in crime rates. Looking at most of these studies and statistics from state authorities, the general picture painted presents with an overall increase in crime rate. Taking a look at two distinct counting systems, one based on reports from the National Incident Based Reporting System, that shows an increase in crime rate of 44 % since 2012, however being heavily contested by the police for over-exaggerations of numbers, and another by the FBI which shows an increase of no more than 3.5 %, the level of crime rate increase is evident.[192] Regardless of any of the stats, marijuana related offenses only account for 0.5 – 1 % of the total crime rate.[193] Denver police spokesman Sonny Jackson reported for the Denver Post: “Crime is up, but I don’t know if you can relate it to marijuana.”[194] The number of total violent crimes in Denver over a three year period (48.153 – 2013, 49.365 – 2014, 50.320 – 2015) is showing only a moderate increase, while drugs/narcotics violations have also gone up (2.349 – 2013, 2.638 – 2014, 3.003 – 2015).[195] Glancing at these numbers, the increase shown is below moderate, while the narcotics violations only represent 7 – 8 % of the grand total, with marijuana related offenses being even lower considering that most of these offenses relate to “hard drugs”. A clear correlation between marijuana legalization and the overall increase in crime rate cannot be established here, and if existent, it can only account for a miniscule percentage of the grand total, and as such it cannot be of a significant influence. Judging all of the above, no positive or negative effect emerges out of this specific data set, determining a “zero effect” stance. Overall implications

Looking at the overall effectiveness of these policies, a clear trend emerges. While both frameworks were, in theory, well suited for their internal context, only Colorado managed to thoroughly benefit from its policy, while Uruguay struggled and, at the moment, is still trying to implement the measures stipulated in the original law. Considering the effects presented in the section above, this section regarding Effectiveness is “won” by Colorado and gives course in considering that, overall, the U.S. state has been more careful in drafting its policy and that the liberal model, in the case of marihuana legalization, is much more efficient than the over-regulated, state-centered, dirgist, model of the Uruguayan administration.


4.3.2 Unintended effects

In regards to unexpected side effects of the legal cannabis regulations, these effects strictly relate to the environment and the parameters established by the laws. For example, we would expect to have these spill-over effects in the lines of the economics in Colorado, while that would be less likely in Uruguay, where economic benefits were not targeted by the law. Within this subchapter, two subsections, one for each state, have been included and under them the different unintended effects have been listed and analyzed. Colorado

In Colorado, the majority of these spill-over effects have taken place in the lines of economics. Several industries benefited from the new cannabis market, including tourism, real-estate, agricultural etc. Also, the negative aspects of increased consumption of marijuana among teens has been taken into consideration. Tourism

Weed tourism has taken off after the passage of Amendment 64, in many different forms. Marijuana tours have been on the rise since 2013, with the possibility to consume marijuana on guided tours, for adults over 21, giving a bonus experience to regular sightseeing around the state. Since Colorado also has a natural landscape that makes tourism flourish and is also rich in history, with the “Gold Rush” being at the fore-front of the historical scape, it goes hand in hand with the legalization of cannabis, putting together an even stronger tourism industry. A lot of tourism operators have sprouted along these lines, providing sight-seeing and guided tours throughout the state and cities, such as Denver. The newest trend in cannabis tourism, full service cannabis friendly vacations with personal guided “420”[196] tours, offering: luxury 420 Friendly Transports with Mini Bar and friendly 420 hotels (since consumption in public places is prohibited by law, it can only take places in an special, endorsed space, with some tourism operators not being willing to provide this leisure to their costumers); shopping at retail cannabis stores with discounts for the clients of these tour operators; narrated sight-seeing; other related services.[197] Real-estat

Another spill-over of the cannabis market was into the real-estate industry. Since marijuana market operations required spaces to develop, the real-estate industry profited from this new market. It even created real estate agencies that focus specifically on the marijuana businesses.[198] Not only did the cannabis market made a powerful impact on real-estate, it also managed to revitalize the industrial areas of the town, kick-starting a recovery of the industrial market throughout Colorado, and especially Denver, according to Jessica Ostermick, the director of research and analysis at commercial real estate firm, CRBE, in Denver, Colorado.[199] The study conducted by the research team at CRBE suggested that, between 2009 and 2014 (taking into account also the facilities related to medicinal marijuana production), the cannabis industry took up to 35.8 % of “all industrial space leased in Denver during that five-year period”.[200] Assessing the situation of the real-estate market, a clear spill-over benefit is manifesting in this area of business, giving greater cause to the effectiveness of the marihuana market. Agriculture

Another interesting take-off would be in the lines of providers for cannabis cultivation equipment. Since the legalization, a lot of cultivation facilities have taken roots and all of them require specialized equipment in order to function. As such, businesses like Surna, an agricultural logistics company which specializes in cannabis agriculture raked in huge profits.[201] Negative effects in terms of increased marihuana consumption rate among teens

On the other hand, there are also negative spill-over effects. In regards to teen usage of marijuana and availability of the substance, numbers suggest it’s on the rise. Given the increased accessibility granted by Amendment 64 to marihuana and related products, the probability that it might end up in teenager hands by recurring to adults as a means to be granted access to the drug is quite high. Data extracted from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), showed that children from 12 – 17 years of age have used the drug 20 % more in the two years following the legalization.[202] In the same time-frame the national average for the respective indicator dropped by 4 %, fact which makes teen use in Colorado 74 % higher than national average.[203] The concern associated with teen use is that it is more likely to cause addiction than to those of 25 years of age and older.[204] In this sense, a negative trend is observable, while also relating to the fact that the efficacy of the youth awareness programs is doubtful and needs further rethinking.

Drawing the line on the unintended effects of marijuana legalization in Colorado, from an economic stand point, the effects reflect a highly positive trend. In regards with public health impacts, with specific reference on teen marihuana consumption, the number don’t show a favorable picture, with further attention and investment being required to temper down the effects. Uruguay

For Uruguay, the situation is a bit more puzzling. While Colorado’s law may imply some domino changes for a federal-scale legalization, Uruguay’s legalization comes unfolding heavily in “international waters”, while also spilling-over internally, affecting drug-trafficking rates and potentially causing side-effects within the parameters of the imposed quota of 40 grams of per month. International echo of Uruguay’s marihuana legalization

The first line of order in unintended effects when referring to Uruguay’s marijuana legalization, is the impact it has internationally. Unlike Colorado, which is part of a larger federal system, the U.S.A., Uruguay is a fully independent state, and the first one in the world to fully legalize marijuana for recreational purposes. In the light of the legalization of cannabis in Uruguay, “all eyes” are pointed towards the small, South-American state, with huge pressure coming from both the inside and the outside. Considering the effects that the law had, up until this point, and the slow pace of its implementation criticism towards it is felt from all sides. Alas, the spill-over effect of the law in the international arena is quite evident. The recent UNGASS 2016 conference (United Nations General Assembly Special Sessions) was focused on the drug issue around the world. Since Uruguay is the first country to fully legalize the drug, the prospects it brought to the table have been up for debate. The example set by Uruguay had a lot of officials and professionals thinking about the possibilities of replicating the procedures in other places and the people involved have started thinking about reforming the drug policy world-wide. Given the numerous global reports on the inefficacy of the war on drugs and its highly negative impacts on development, society, economics and environment, especially in less developed, southern hemisphere states where the plants are being cultivated and in some cases also processed,[205] and the waste in billions of dollars on law-enforcement procedures, the skepticism on the efficacy on the war on drugs is at an all-time high. In this context, the legalization in Uruguay is a pioneering step into the effort of decriminalization and a possible trend-setter for the rest of the world. Considering that the alternative drug policies seem to outweigh in costs the “war on drugs” approach, Uruguay’s legalization is of monumental impact to the international legalization effort. This particular aspect does not make the object of the current study, as the effects of the policies under study are being looked at an internal level, but regardless, the unintended effects of the law on international “waters” is of “tidal wave” proportions. Further study is required to fully understand the impact that this law had on international perspectives towards marijuana/drug legalization, correlating it with the inefficacy on the war on drugs. Drug trafficking-rates

Looking at the internal level, some spill-over effects may be noticed in terms of drug-trafficking rates. As the number of cannabis seizures grew, despite the legalization efforts, this negative effects snow-balled into some other drug-markets, namely cocaine and pasta base. While the marihuana seizures grew, cocaine and pasta fell behind in favor of marihuana.[206] Given the less harmful nature of marijuana consumption and addiction rates, as opposed to cocaine and even alcohol, there is some positivity created as a snow-ball result from an overall negative effect. “Back-fire” scenario of the limitation on cannabis consumption to 40 grams per month

Another possible scenario can also unfold. With the strict regulations imposing a monthly quota of 40 grams per consumer, there will be consumers who will reach their quota and will go out searching for another source, while in the same time there will be consumers which have lower quotas and will be willing to satisfy the others by selling their own at a higher price, thus creating a quasi-black market, supplied, in fact, by the government.[207] Also minors and people who fear their reputation will be tainted by registering with the government will resort to these ways of procuring cannabis.[208] These unintended consequences are a clear negative effect of the over-regulation and may pose a threat to the effectiveness of the law.


4.3.3 Equity

The importance of equity when analyzing any policy is crucial. As laws tend to impact differently on different types of people, within distinct contexts, it is logical to assume that different social beds and groups can be the subject of disparities associated with the way these laws were constructed, in the idea that they may affect them positively/negatively more than others. It is in these scenarios that the policies that are being analyzed show how “fairly” they have been designed, in order to serve all members of society regardless of: sex, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, level of income, age groups, foreigners, residents of certain areas.

In this following sub-section, many different types of social groups will be put under scrutiny to determine if they have been subjected or not to un-justice from the law. The groups have been created under the following criteria: 1. Gender; 2. Religion; 3. Ethnicity; 4. Sexuality; 5. Level of Income; 6. Age Groups; 7. Marihuana accessibility to foreigners; 8. Area of residence. Gender disparities

The discussion on this particular point is rather short. Given the fact that the accessibility to this drug is non-discriminatory and its users are both female and male and it is regarded a consumption good, it is safe to assume that non-discriminative access is available, for both female and male, without any traces of sexism infused in the practice. Since it is free of access to those within the boundaries of the law, the only constraint being “of age” to purchase or cultivate (21 for Colorado, respectively 18 for Uruguay), and considering the level of social development within both states, it is a safe assumption that both women and men get equal access to purchasing and consuming marijuana. Religious disparities

As with the previous point, the discussion here does not present with any fervent debates. Religion is not at the point where it can present with the potential to create disparities regarding the access to cannabis. Even if the religious diversity in Colorado is far greater than that of Uruguay (in which most of its citizens are Catholic Christians), the constitution of either state entity does not belittle, or favor any religious group over another and grant indiscriminate access regardless of the faith system of the customer. As with the previous point, it is safe to assume that both Colorado and Uruguay do not provide any preferential treatment to a certain religious group, or belittle another in regard to their legal marihuana systems. Ethnical disparities

At this point the situation gets a little stickier, especially with regards to Colorado. The long time stigma of Afro-Americans and other racial groups (Latinos, Asians) are heavily reflected in the way the law is enforced. There is no discriminate access to the product for any ethnical group, however the statistics in regards to arrests for marijuana offenses seem to put out a distinct, racial targeting profile. The racial disparities with regards to marijuana arrests were already in place to begin with, and nothing has change for the good since. While the number of arrests for marihuana related offenses dropped in 2014, the rate of black people getting arrested for pot is way higher than that for whites (2.4 times higher in 2014), with the arrest rate (per 100.000 people) for marijuana possession for white people being 115.93, while for black people it was 281.10. [209] Considering black people account for 3.9 % of the total population of Colorado, but make up 9.2 % of arrests for possessing cannabis, a clear, racial disparity takes place in this case.[210] Data from 2010 suggests that the arrest rate for white people was 335.12, while blacks accounted for 851.45, comprising 9.4 % of arrests, while representing 3.8 % of the total population of Colorado.[211] Correlating both data sets the racism infused in enforcing the law is getting even clearer. This is a certain negative effect of the law, as it didn’t manage to defuse the racial targeting profile and only maintained the practice. There is an evident need of recalculation in regards to this aspect, as it represents a clear and heavy draw-back to the law, further revealing the racial stigma practices across U.S. law enforcement procedures.[212]

In the case of Uruguay, there are no reported racial disparities when it comes to access to cannabis or means of self-production, and neither when it comes to arrests involving marijuana related offenses. In this aspect Uruguay’s system is much fairer than the one in Colorado, providing with a big plus in the lines of equity. Sexual orientation

With regards to this perspective, the situation of accessibility of cannabis and number of arrests is may be influenced by the level of tolerance of LGBT. While both states LGBT rights, there are certain cleavages. Looking from a national perspective, Uruguay gets far ahead of the U.S.A., in terms of LGBT rights, according to Equaldex.[213] Even if the case is so, the situation of the context varies greatly in the U.S.A. by state, and so Colorado is considered to be one of the most liberal in this sense, offering a wider protection to LGBT communities than other states.[214] As such, adoption and enrollment in the military is legal for both, discrimination is illegal in both cases, housing discrimination and employment discrimination are not permitted within both states.[215] Uruguay allows changing gender through surgery, while in the Colorado this is an ambiguous threshold, permitting conversion therapy is ambiguous in Colorado and unknown in Uruguay, donating is strictly forbidden in Colorado while Uruguay allows it, the age of consent is equal for both male and female Uruguay, while in Colorado this threshold is also ambiguous.[216] Putting both fact sets face to face, Uruguay appears to be more liberal in the sense of LGBT rights. This not however a definite indicator of how LGBT communities are treated in regards to cannabis access, since the laws are non-discriminatory, at least in text, towards sexual minorities. As such, the implications of the level of civil liberties towards LGBT’s and access to cannabis and related arrests is unclear, and cannot constitute a solid basis to judge if the state attitudes can reflect in discriminatory attitude towards these sexual minorities. All in all, a “zero effect” occurs here, where the law is equitable towards sexual minorities, until proven otherwise. Disparities regarding level of income

The level of income is crucial when considering access towards marihuana. One must first consider the price of the substance and PPP in each context before assessing how this can affect the social beds of each state entity in regards to accessibility towards marihuana and cultivating cannabis. As mentioned earlier in this study, the market price for a gram of marihuana in Colorado ranges in between $7-17, taking into consideration the quality, while Uruguay has yet to implement the market system, yet it plans to sell its product, of higher quality than that of the black market at a price of $1. The PPP in Uruguay is 18.71 units to the standard $1 of the U.S.A., while for Colorado it stays at the $1 value, being part of the U.S.A. Considering the correlation between the PPP and the price of marihuana within each state, equity exists without question, given price/income ratio, plus considering the fact that each of the two allows for its citizens to grow marijuana on their own, with the given restrictions, Uruguay being more strict in this sense (40 grams per month per person quota).

As the proposed price for Uruguay’s legal marijuana is at a very low threshold, the issue of income distribution being a problem towards legal cannabis accessibility is close to zero. With that being the case for Uruguay, a little more digging needs to happen for Colorado. The income inequality is deepening within the state according to a recent study conducted by the “Economic Policy Institute” and the “Center on Budget and Policy Priorities”. From the late 90’s to the middle 2000’s there has been an overall negative growth of the average income in a household within the 20 % most poorest people (-11,7% average), while the richest 20 % got an 13.9 % growth, with the middle 20 % raking only 2 % growth.[217] In a larger picture, for a timeframe accounting from the late 1970’s to the middle 2000’s, it goes as such: poorest 20 % only received an increase in the average income by 4.3 %, the middle 20 % got an overall 30.9 % increase, while the richest 20% received and overwhelming 78.4 % increase in average household income, showing a concerning increase in income inequality among the citizens of Colorado.[218] Presently the average household income for the poorest 20% is at $22,500 per annum, $68,900 for the middle 20 %, and $299,800 for the 5% richest, creating a huge gap in between the three social beds.[219] As such, the richest 5 % of household earn average incomes 13.4 times higher than the bottom 20 % of the poor household and 4.4 times higher than the middle 20 % of households, generating a worrying picture of the income inequality in the state of Colorado.[220] Correlating the data above with the price of a retail cannabis gram, it would be very hard for lower income consumers to satisfy their quota or medicate themselves than those that generate a higher income, and as such, the equity of accessibility towards cannabis for the poorer residents Colorado is hanging negatively in the balance. Accessibility to cannabis of different age groups 

The issues in this category is not that of being accessible to all age groups, but that of restricting the access to those that are not of age (under 21 in Colorado and under 18 in Uruguay).

There is no question of the equity of access towards cannabis once you are of age, from a legal perspective, the problem remains for the teenagers (12-17 years of age). Since the legalization in both countries there has been a fear of potential over-use by teenagers, which are more prone to developing dependency habits towards the drug, and since the accessibility of the drug is not that scarce anymore and legal, for those of age, they also profit from this system, buying cannabis at higher rates, in a quasi-legal manner, from those who have purchased it or cultivated it by legal means. In Colorado, as shown before, the increased availability of marihuana has sky-rocketed teen use and abuse, marking a negative effect on the aspect of accessibility. In Uruguay, the rate of marihuana consumption among teenagers is in relation with their age, with studies showing that it increases with age: 13 year olds – 3.8 %, 14 year olds – 9.1 %, 15 year olds – 16.7 % and 16 year olds would reach 27.1 %, rounding up a total of 13.3 % of adolescents who have consume the drug at least once.[221] The percentage in Colorado is roughly equal, with 13.3 % of 12 – 17 year olds who have consumed marijuana at least once (for 2013-2014), topping off every other state and almost double of the national rate of 7.22 %.[222] In this respect both constituencies seem on equal footing, the only issues being that Colorado had a more dramatic uptake in teen marihuana usage for the past years. A negative trend, in both cases, with regards to this category is evident. Foreigner access to marijuana

This issues here is an interesting one to look at, as it reflects directly from the text of the law. While in Colorado foreigners are allowed to purchase, consume and possess half an ounce of marihuana, while not being permitted to cultivate it without a residential permit, Uruguay strictly forbids the sale and cultivation by foreigners, unless they obtain citizenship. Whereas the liberal approach towards cannabis is granting Colorado economic benefits in lines of tourism development, the over-regulation strategy of the Uruguayan Government, might back-fire on them. As is the case with local consumers that appeal to other consumers or the black market to satisfy their quota of plus 40 grams a month, so can tourists that arrive with “smoking weed” in mind, can resort to the black market or to other citizens, further fueling a potential and powerful draw-back to the law. The conclusion is clear; Colorado benefits from “weed-tourists”, while Uruguay is sabotaging itself, while also scoring a big minus in terms of marihuana access equity towards foreigners. Disparities concerning equity of access towards marihuana of certain areas

In Uruguay there is no divide concerning equity of access of different areas of the state, everyone, everywhere is allowed to cultivate and consume. The case for Colorado is, however, different. While the law may be more liberal in many perspectives than that of Uruguay’s, liberalism can also present with draw-backs, depending on the perspective from which one regards it. Colorado allowed each individual administrative entity, town, village to decide on its own if it will allow cannabis cultivation and marihuana sales on its territory. The initiative is great and adhered to the principles of a democracy and liberalism.[223] While still allowing citizens to grow their own plants at home, certain towns and areas do not allow retail cannabis sales and cultivation on their lands, thus limiting the access of those who want to smoke pot, but can’t grow at home. It also represents a draw-back in the idea that it doesn’t provide with economic benefits derived from sales taxes and excises from retail pot, as well as other draw-backs in terms of real-estate fructification. Judging this aspect in the idea of liberalism shows a definite respect towards the autonomy of smaller administrations, but in regards to the equity of access to marihuana to the citizens of this place, it scores a big minus. Judgement on Equity 

All in all, there are both positives and negatives. While in Colorado the overall means of procuring and access are better put in place, the law is unfavorable towards certain minorities and areas of the state. Uruguay is very strict on the other hand and severely over-regulates the cultivation and distribution of its product, scoring even lower on this aspect, but does not provide any discriminatory attitudes when it comes to race and region. Overall, after careful consideration, the highest score in equity towards access to cannabis goes to Colorado. The liberal model used by the U.S. state does provide with an overall fairer accessibility opportunities to its citizens and does not limit their monthly consumption.


4.3.4 Overall assessment of effects  

The three, distinct, dimension of “effectiveness” that have been under scrutiny provided with essential information and added value to the hypothesis. Even if Uruguay scores at some social and equity aspects better than Colorado, when drawing the line, the numbers tend to speak in favor Colorado. Economically Colorado “outsmarted” Uruguay, gaining a huge monetary advantage by marketing marijuana the way it did, let us not forget, however, that the context in Uruguay makes it more challenging to market marihuana the way Colorado did, given the extent to which the black-market operates and the prices imposed within that space, although one can argue that if the state can deliver a better product, it can outweigh the black-market competition. In terms of social equity, Uruguay has some leaps over Colorado, but they still do not make up for the over-regulation and restrictions imposed on the monthly consumption quota which, in turn, can snow-ball into other, more negative, backfire scenarios. All in all, in terms of overall effectiveness, Colorado takes the lead, reassuring the foundation of the hypothesis that of the fact that the liberal market model of regulation is overall, more durable.


4.4 Implementation

 After studying the overall effects that the law had from the three different perspectives, another dimension needs to be taken into consideration to be able to fully assess the overall durability of the law, and that is, “implementation”. This dimension will consist of three, relevant, perspectives: cost, feasibility and acceptability. The goal in this second half of the analysis is to assess how well the implementation of the two laws was conducted, according to the three perspectives fore-mentioned. Studying the implementation processes will give the study a second pillar on which to support the claims presented in the hypothesis, and to make it that more relevant and clear to what extent have the laws been used and how well did they “settle in”. Once this chapter is concluded the conclusions on the whole study can be drawn to determine which model provided with the most durable policy framework for regulating a legal marijuana market.


4.4.1 Costs 

The overall costs imply two different aspects: the expenses incurred by the government to implement the policy, but also the gains that came out of it in terms of revenues and also the expenses of other actors and the gains of these actors. It also important to notice the low visibility costs, which are associated with these practices and often go unnoticed. This subchapter will be divided into two distinct sub-divisions, expenses and gains. Expenses 

When talking about expenses there are two distinct divides that need be taken into consideration: 1. the expenses that are incurred by the administrations of the states when they implemented the law; 2. the expenses incurred by the non-state actors that are in direct relation with law and benefit of it. Both sides of the table have provided economic input in order to put the law in motion and, it is therefore necessary to see the ratio between inputs and outputs in order to judge the how effective the implementation was. Expenses incurred by the administration

When considering the costs of implementation, one must take into account the extent to which each state has gone to create an apparatus that is responsible for this task. One must take into account the staffing, the equipment and logistics to put in place a system that manages a new law, especially when that law creates a new market, more specifically by legalizing a prior, illegal substance, in this case, marihuana.

Before any discussion on this matter can occur, it has to be stated that data on this particular aspect of financial costs regarding administrative setups is almost non-existent, with the only possibility of comparison being that of judging the processes involved by the administration to implement the system that represent the regulating bodies of these laws.

In Colorado, the “Task Force of Amendment 64”, was in charge of providing the regulatory suggestions to the Colorado Government, to thoroughly implement the law. The “Task Force Report on the Implementation of Amendment 64”[224] is a report designed by the Task Force in March 2013, to guide the state through an implementation process that would put in place the new system for marijuana commercialization and created a complex design to aid the state in this endeavor. The breakdown of the implementation design goes as such: 1. Regulatory Structure; 2. Regulatory Financing; 3. Taxation; 4. Licensee Requirements; 5. Transition to the Amendment 64 Regulatory Environment; 6. Operational Requirements; 7. Interaction with Consumers; 8. Consumer Safety; 9. Good Cultivation, Handling, and Laboratory Practices; 10. Marijuana Education and Studies; 11. Child Care Facilities; 12. Criminal Law; 13. Local Civil Offenses; 14. Home Cultivation and Processing of Marijuana; 15. Requests for Federal Assistance; 16. General Recommendations; 17. Follow-Up to the Work of this Task Force,[225] with their respective sub-points. Note: some of these regulatory frameworks incur costs associated with the producers as well.

In Uruguay, the situation was shaped differently. Given the increased level of state involvement, the regulatory body was created as a sub-division of the “Junta Nacional des Drogas”, namely the IRCCA (“Instituto de Regulacion y Control del Cannabis”).[226] All the efforts and funds were poured into this Institute to give it the necessary tools to be able to oversee the legal-cannabis system.

The regulatory body that was named in charge of the cannabis trade in Colorado, is the Colorado Department of Revenue. The state operates the marijuana trade through a “seed to plant” type of tracking, meaning that every seed of cannabis that is planted is tagged with a registration number which follows it until it is fully grown and “ripe for the picking”.[227] The Department is in charge of collecting the taxes associated with marihuana sales and also the one to distribute them to tertiary beneficiaries, like: the state coffers, the Department of Education and the Department of Public Health. The costs entailed here are the ones associated with making the section inside the Department of Revenue that deals with marijuana regulation and taxation function properly.

In Uruguay, all the costs entailed by the system to function are poured in the IRCCA. Since it has been established as the sole regulating body of the legal-marihuana system, it is in charge of registrations for self-growers and cannabis clubs, as well as for imposing the law on these operators, and will also be responsible with regulating the access of its citizens to marihuana put on sale in the pharmacies, by authorizing these to sell marihuana and taking charge of procurement by means of putting together a network of authorized growers to sustain the demand of the pharmacy chains.[228] The IRCCA plants to use $500.000 as budget funding for 2016, while estimating it would take in fees around $140.000, as such the remainder for the full sum will be covered by the government.[229] Note: up until this point no sales of marihuana in state endorse pharmacies have taken place, making the estimate offered by the government in terms of gains to be doubtful.

Overall, Colorado has infused larger costs into getting its marijuana market up and running, while Uruguay didn’t invest a large sum of money into making the IRCCA functional. There is a huge “but” here, while Uruguay doesn’t really gain financially in the long run, the costs of running the system are still extracted from public funds, while Colorado, using the tax money has managed to cover the sums it invested into making things operational and now also profits from the tax money and reinvests where it deems necessary. Expenses incurred by non-state actors Taxation

In Colorado, the operators of marihuana sales services are subjected to a complex taxation scheme. The taxation schematic is as follows: 1. for retail marijuana purchases by consumers, “the purchase is subject to the 10 % state marijuana tax, and 2.9 % state sales tax plus any local sales taxes”[230]; 2. for retailers or manufacturers purchasing from cultivation facilities – the excise tax: “is imposed on the first sale or transfer from a retail marijuana cultivation facility to a retail marijuana store, retail marijuana product manufacturing facility or to another retail marijuana cultivation facility;”[231] the tax is calculated based on the category of retail marijuana product (Trim, Flower, or Immature Plant) being sold or transferred[232]; the tax is calculated thus: the total weight of the product being sold (Trim, Bud, or Trim plus Bud in the case of concentrates) will be multiplied by the average market price for the respective product/plant part, and the result shall be multiplied by 15 % to determine the exact amount of excise tax due;[233] example: 100 grams of Marihuana Bud * $14 = 1400 * 15 % = $210 of excise tax due; 3. for a Retail Marijuana Store: if the location is retail sales only, then one retails sales tax license per location, if the location has both a Medical Center and a Retail Store, then two retail sales tax license per location, one for each separate facilities in function;[234] the standard sales tax license is applicable to “a person or business having a permanent location where retails sales are conducted on a regular basis”[235] and has a value of $16 per a two-year license, with a one-time-only deposit of $50;[236] 4. for a Marijuana Infused Product Manufacturer (MIP): if the location contains both and MIP and a Retail store, then only 1 wholesale tax license is required, if the location is standalone MIP it needs either one or two license, depending if it sells only Retail or both Medical and Retail (MIP can use the same sales tax license as the medical center/retail store);[237] 5. For a cultivation facility: the excise tax and a wholesale tax license (if the marijuana cultivation center is at the same location as the retail marijuana store or medical marijuana center it needs no separate licensing)[238]. Other tertiary service operators, the ones who operate around the cannabis industry, i.e. the real estate industry and tourism are subjected to the sales tax and require sales and operational licenses for their businesses.

In Uruguay, there is little to no taxation scheme. At this point the only procedure one needs to follow in order to grow cannabis is to register with the IRCCA, have a stable address and be a citizen of Uruguay.[239] The proposed price for a gram in the “soon to be opened” pharmacies, will be that of $1.20 per gram, in an effort to “challenge” the black-market prices, the tax on the product being a very small part (~$0.20).[240] There is no clear stipulation on how pharmacies will get their license, if they will pay for them, or how and if cultivation facilities will be taxed, providing with further ambiguity in this sense. Costs entailed by owning a marijuana business

In regards to the actual procedures entailed by owning and maintaining a marihuana business, most of them are in the lines of materials and logistics. To be able to house a growing facility, one must first have the space necessary, in accordance to the size of the operation in question. The next thing one must take into consideration is the cultivation-logistics: 1. Lights to simulate sunlight and stimulate the growth of the plants (U.V., Halogen, L.E.D’s etc.). They can be placed vertically, horizontally etc.;[241] 2. Method of cultivation: plain soil (requires constant watering and nutrient infusion along with soil and flower pots) or hydroponics (a newer, faster cultivation method, which provides with more yield in terms of bud and is much faster than conventional soil-growth, but requires a much more expensive and special setup);[242] 3. Ventilation and cooling: to ensure a proper temperature and humidity levels within the facility (by fans, chilled-water climate control etc.), with added carbon filtering, if desired, to diminish the pungent smell of marihuana into dissipating in neighboring areas;[243] 4. Nutrients for plants and/or for hydroponic installations; 5. Specialized personnel in marijuana cultivation to check the overall process and ensure the end quality of the product; 6. Trimmers (people that prepare the plants by cutting off the leaves and stems, leaving only the bud to be sold); 7. Auxiliary personnel.

In terms of retail shops the situation is as such: 1. Housing for the store; 2. Sales and consultancy personnel; 3. Specific furniture for the establishment; 4. Jars, containers for marihuana, and smoking paraphernalia (papers, bongs, vaporizers etc.); 5. Product to be sold (marihuana, concentrates, edibles etc.); 6. Auxiliary personnel. Other expenses may be involved.

In the case of marijuana infused products, the facilities that prepare these goods are equipped with a complex line of equipment, taking into consideration the spectrum of infused goods they are producing. These products can be anything from chocolate, to drinks, cookies, vaping oil, beer, milkshakes, mints etc.[244] The possibilities regarding infused products are countless, not to mention marijuana infused cooking into ordinary dishes, making the “marijuana edibles” market a strong and profitable area in the near future.

In Uruguay, on the other hand since there is not legal market yet being set-up, the costs incurred by non-state actors, namely the ones who are cultivating are in the lines of cultivation set-ups. The requirements for these have been mentioned before, the only difference is that of sizing according to the number of plants being cultivated. If there is a cannabis club, the operation will be of greater size, while a home-grow type of operation will require less. Also, considering the climate possibilities, one can opt for an outdoor crop and lessen the expenses of in-door equipment. Costs in the future by the pharmacies will probably be in lines of acquisition of marihuana from the cultivation facilities and having to set-up a system for marihuana sales. As for the cultivation facilities, they will also follow the model of the ones in Colorado, for in-door cultivation, or opt for an out-door crop system, with added security expenses in the lines of fences, permanent guards and surveillance. Gains 

When talking about gains, the two dimensions used to analyze the revenue will apply once more. It means that this sub-division will be further divided into “financial gains of the administrations” and “financial gains of the non-state actors”. They results will be put against the expenses created to see how profitable was each policy scheme in comparison to the other. Financial gains of the administrations Colorado

In Colorado, since the regulatory framework was designed to generate profit, the results started showing right away. Legal sales of marihuana and marihuana related products started with the 1st of January, 2014. The estimate for the first year of sales revenue was estimated at ~$60 million, but the number at the end of the year showed a revenue gain of ~$44 million.[245] Even if not up to the initial predictions, there have been ~$44 million dollars created in terms of revenue where there were none before. The following year of 2015 was even more fruitful; the total revenue count came up to ~$135 million, tripling in size from the previous year, showing a clear state of efficiency in the implementation of the law.[246] Looking further, at 2016, a comparison can be drawn to see how the first couple of months have turned out in terms of revenue gains. In March 2015 a total of $7.834.860, representing “Total Marijuana Tax Transfers an Distributions”[247], was gained by “The Rocky Mountain” state, while in the same month of 2016 the number climbed up to $12.778/824, a 63.1 % percent increase in revenue gain.[248] A further 63.1 % increase for a month of sales represents a further indicator of the economic effectiveness of the policy, standing testament to the state of implementation conducted by Colorado. Reinvestment in the public sector

To further assess the potency of the implementation scheme, the reinvestment schemes shall be put under observation. Since the reinvestment of part of the revenue is one of the pillars on which the law was passed and deemed acceptable in the first place, it is a vital point of interest that can further make judge on the quality of the implementation procedures.

The most important sector to benefit from funding allocated from marijuana tax money is education. The BEST program (Building Excellent Schools Today) is a program that functions under the Colorado Department of education, and is responsible for the providing with funding for building new schools, renovating old ones, to purchase additional logistic and learning materials, to aid in the improvement of educational practices. One of the sources from which the best program is funded, is the Excise Tax on marihuana. In 2014 BEST received $3.012.872 from the Excise Tax money, while in 2015 the sum multiplied eightfold, to $23.949.565.[249] The total BEST funds for 2014 were $95.377.943, while for 2015 the number went up to $114.01.404.[250] Out of the whole sum, for 2014 the Excise Tax money made up barely 3.16 % of the whole, while in 2014 the percentage climbed to 20.99 %, again standing testimony to the increasing effectiveness of implementation procedures.

Out of the BEST funding, another, more targeted, funding program, is rooted there, the “Charter Schools Capital Construction Fund”, which specifically targets the construction on new Charter Schools. In 2013 the fund was standing at $5.999.999,98, in 2014 an increase was observable to $7.000.000,00, while in 2015 the number doubled from that of the previous year, to $13.500.000,00, providing further basis to acknowledge the betterment of the overall implementation, given the steady rise in funds awarded, correlated with the increase in funding from the marijuana Excise Tax.[251] It is fair, however, to mention the fact that these funds only represent a tiny piece of the whole educational budget in Colorado, and only make up for a tiny bit of the whole. The total budget for 2016, on education, is $15.3 billion[252], making the revenue gained by taxing marihuana look like “a drop in the sea”.

Even if the funding increase is a beneficial aspect and will provide with betterments towards the overall educational process, the impact on the beneficiaries of this system, is yet to be seen. It is fair to mention that an impact at such a fast paced step, only a couple of years after increased funding, is impossible to observe, given the slow pace of the transformation in the educational sector. The numbers relevant to the quality of the educational system stand in the lines of student performances. Several indicators have been selected to this purpose and will be setup in a timetable for a better glance: 1. Average per pupil funding; [253] 2. On time high-school graduation;[254] 3. Attendance rates;[255] 4. Truancy rates;[256] 5. Student/Teacher Ratios;[257] 6. School drop-out rate.[258]

2012-2013 2013-2014 2014-2015
Average Per Pupil Funding ($) $6.480 $6.652 $7.025
On time high-school graduation (4 years) (%) 76.9 % 77.3 % 77.3 %
Attendance rates (%) 94.81 %


93.55 % 93.18 %
Truancy rates (%) 1.28 % 2.21 % 2.30 %
Student/Teacher Ratios (State Average) 18.10 17.38 18.52
School drop-out rate (%) 2.5 % 2.3 % 2.5 %

Looking at the statistics within the prescribed timeframe, there is no clear evidence of a hard impact on educational standards. It is, however, too soon to be inferring such judgement. The only noticeable difference is in regards to average pupil funding, which has increased by $500 per year from 2013, and might point to an effect in the chain triggered by the marihuana revenue absorption. Uruguay

The discussion on this matter in the case of Uruguay bear no fructification. Since no legal sales in pharmacies have yet to commence, there can be no expectation of revenue to be gained. In this case, Uruguay is showing a slow and hectic implementation procedure and fails to gain, financially, from the regulatory scheme it is using. Financial gains of non-state actors Colorado 

To gain a sense of how profitable marijuana has been for Colorado retailers, one should only look at the numbers. In 2015 legal sales of both medicinal and retail marijuana went up to $996.2 million dollars, toppling by 42 % the previous year in sales, which brought $699 million in sales to retailers around the state.[259] The clear increase in profit gain by retailers stands proof to the growing effectiveness of the legal market. Considering the growth in profits, one can extrapolate and assume that there has also been a growth in production, implying a larger need for housing and cultivation materials, putting more money into the pockets of real-estate and agricultural firms. With more money to be gained, come more taxes, and with more taxes, the rate of reinvestment is also growing.

Another example of financial and social stability gain, even if at a small level, is represented by an initiative of Aurora County, in Colorado. Aurora expects to gather in $4.5 million from marihuana tax money in the following two years (2017; 2018) and is planning on offering $1.5 million out of the whole sum to help the struggling members of its society (residents struggling with homelessness).[260] Out of the $1.5 million, $220.000 will go to the Colfax Community Network, to help support the families that live in motels, buying food, diapers and other necessities for the needy, while also providing vans for Aurora Mental Health and The Comitis Crisis Center for “metrowide homeless outreach”.[261] Cannabis Industry Jobs

One of the most important aspects to consider when talking about financial gains for non-state actors, is the fact that the marijuana industry has created a lot of jobs. Since the rise of the market, the ever-growing need to sustain it has also demanded more human resources to help fill in the necessities of the new market. At his point there have been more than 16 new job positions that have been created since the market started taking shape back in 2014. The list of new job positions generated by the legal marijuana industry is as follows: 1. Edible Creator (a type of cannabis cook, which infuses food products with cannabis); 2. Concentrates Creator (the person who deals in concocting high potency concentrates from marihuana, such as: hash oil, dabs, shatter, Rick Simpson oil; these products are mostly destined for patients using cannabis to medicate and require chemistry skills to achieve); 3. Glass Merchant (merchants of cannabis paraphernalia like bongs, pipes, vaporizers etc.); 4. Courier and delivery (popular among medical marihuana users since most of them can’t make it to dispensary, it is most likely to be adopted by the retail business as well); 5. Security (for obvious reasons concerning the nature of the business and to check ID’s of costumers); 6. Reviewers (people that review different strains of marihuana in order to make it easier for consumers/patients to choose from them according to their needs); 7. Trimmer (the person that processes the marijuana bud so that it is pleasantly looking and cuts down extra weight from the products, in the sense the he/she cuts off the excess parts leaving the bud as clean as possible); 8. Tourism operator (even if, at the moment, it is in its early stages, canna-tourism is expected to take off in the near future); 9. Administration (administrators or managers for cannabis businesses); 10. Budtender (does the exact same thing as a bartender, but deals with cannabis buds, counseling the client on the products that are being sold at the location); 11. Regulators (to enforce and make sure that the laws regarding cannabis sales is upheld); 12. Software & Web (it is a vital part of operating an industry online and offering ease of access to customers/visitors, while also providing with software to manage sales systems); 13. Retail Shop Owner (marihuana entrepreneur); 14. Farmer (one of the most important jobs in the industry; agricultural skills are required for this job); 15. Seed Harvester (it goes hand in hand with being a farmer, but it represents a different branch in the industry; 16. Consulting (every business sector has them and the cannabis market makes no exception; from cultivation consultants to business consultants they all make a living out of the new cannabis market).[262]

Looking at the finding above, the trend is clear. An efficient regulation framework provides with gains and benefits for both the state and its citizens, creating opportunities where one might not expect. The spill-over effect of the legal cannabis industry in Colorado has generated a score of benefits, financially, for both the population, entrepreneurs and the state. Uruguay 

Once again, the discussion of financial gains within the framework created by the Uruguayan government can’t be assessed, since no legal sales have yet to begin. In its proposed form, the sales are bound to start somewhere at the beginning of July. The only relevant aspect in this direction is the announcement made that the state has contracted several private companies to start growing cannabis that will be distributed in the state authorized pharmacies, within the given quotas, at ~$1 per gram.

With the pre-mentioned, anticipated revenue to be gained in the following two years, Uruguay cannot expect to generate an effective cost-gain ratio in order to cover for the implementation and the regulation procedure solely out of those funds. It is fair to mention that once the industry will be better set up, job opportunities will emerge from this, and with a bit of luck Uruguay might start to bounce back into the fray. Considering the fact the state has contracted the companies for cannabis cultivation, job opportunities might arise there, but given the over-regulation present, with only a limited number of facilities being licensed to cultivate, the number of jobs created will also be limited by this procedure. Once again, up to this point in time, Uruguay has stagnated with the implementation providing with no relevant gains, ensuing only the costs associated with implementing the law. Overall assessment of costs

The overall picture painted by the aspect of “cost” is inclined towards giving Colorado the white ball, once more. Even if the state invested more money into the regulation and implementation, it got its money back via the revenue gains, while also managing to reinvest some of it into education and public-health education. Uruguay may have spent less than Colorado, but at this point it has gained nothing, financially, from the whole deal. In terms of market development, Colorado offered the means for which a new market to flourish and also impact on others as well (tourism, real-estate, agriculture etc.), creating huge profits for entrepreneur out of it, which in turn translate into more taxes, not to mention the new job market that has sprung around the industry. Since the market in Uruguay has not been, yet, thoroughly regulated, no idea of profit can be sustained, nor will it be for the private sector, since the business is state owned. All in all, Colorado managed to “milk the cow” and to tend to its market in a neat way, but not without hick-ups, while Uruguay has had severe management trouble in the implementation phase, creating a severe-draw back on the start of legal sales, while also being constrained by the framework it developed.


4.4.2 Feasibility

The dimension of feasibility is the one that examines the technical feasibilities of the policy under scrutiny. It will go through a series of points in order to evaluate how feasible was each of the two policy sets that are being examined. The points of analysis that the policies will undergo this time are: the availability of required resources, conformity with existing legislation, pre-existent pilot programs, existence of administrative authorities and implementation agencies.

This dimension will look at how “smooth” the policy can “flow”. It will assess parameters that will determine if the policies under study are valid material and do not conflict and burden other state agencies or/and civil society components. Availability of required resources

This specific point is a very straight-forward one. The entailments of it are in the lines of all types of resources that are required to sustain a proposed policy and to properly implement it. The legalization of marihuana, in either case, is not a costly endeavor in itself and does not require much resource to effectively legalize, except the political measures that are entailed by the legalization process itself, i.e.: drafting of the law, voting procedures, the ratification of the law and any other administrative procedures that are entailed by such an effort. These mechanism are a fundamental of any such procedure, and legalizing marijuana, as a first step, was easy. The problem posed here is not of the legalization bills themselves, but of the implementation procedures, which require the bulk of the resources in order to be properly sustained. Personnel

Once again the discussion revolves around the two distinct models of implementation in each constituency. The Colorado model only required the staffing of a new section within the Department of Revenue, in order to deal with marijuana taxes and impose the fiscal law. Creating a free market, it became self-regulated, at the hand of the entrepreneurs who operate within, which pay their taxes according to the taxation scheme imposed by the state. Uruguay, centralizing the control over the substance to the “state entity” was obligated to create a distinct body in order to deal with this new “business”. It created a new department, the IRCCA, in order to deal with the new regulation framework, and it was necessary to offer it the funding required to function properly.

A comparison for this parameter would yield nothing much. Since both states managed to find the personnel resources to manage their new laws, they both score a positive grade at this aspect. There is no need for further investigation in this case. Material resources

Considering the level of development for each and the economic indicators, both of them being highly developed states, one can argue that financial resources for implementing such a law shouldn’t be a problem. Even if Uruguay’s implementation scheme is more costly than that of Colorado in the long run, the resources to maintain the policy at a functional level will exist. Uruguay announced the budget for the IRCCA in 2016 to be $500.000, while Colorado manages its administrative capacities from marihuana taxes. The cost is not under scrutiny here, as it was already discusses, and so, from the point of availability, both Uruguay and Colorado have the resources necessary to properly fund their endeavors. Notes on resource availability

There is no question that both states have the practical resources necessary to build up their schemes. The difference is not in availability of resources, but how they are administered and directed by the bodies that implement the policies and how they manage it overall. In the sense of availability of resources, none of the two state bodies lack in them. Conformity to existing legislation

Since the concept of the law itself revolves around legalizing a former illicit substance, marihuana and its derivate products, the concept of conformity is self-implied. The regulatory bodies of these policies within each state, the IRCCA and the Department of Revenue, are the anointed actors that manage the marihuana regulation. Both of the regulative bodies are in accord to the purpose of the laws they regulate: revenue gain – Department of revenue, strict regulation and heavy control – IRCCA (distinct new body, under the command of the Junta Nacional des Drogas).

The problem in this case falls on the head of Rocky Mountain state. While Uruguay is a stand-alone republic, Colorado is still part of a federal system. It may have a government and a constitution of its own, but it still has ties to the Federal Law and the Federal Constitution of the United States. According to the “Controlled Substances Act”, marihuana is a schedule I drug, and is therefore illegal.[263] On a federal scale the whole marijuana legalization and the market that has sprung around it basically illegal and a huge-back fire can ensue at any time. Even if the regulation framework, thus far, for marihuana, in Colorado, is superior to that of the one in Uruguay, it does not outweigh the fact that the contradiction with the federal law could kill the market at any time. In this respect, the marijuana legalization in Colorado is on shaky ground, and could have dire consequences in the future. Even if the legislation in Uruguay is not that well put together and lacks in implementation, its legal status cannot be contested and there is still room to improve upon it, while Colorado could face grave consequences in the future, if unfortunate circumstances should unfold. Pre-existence of pilot programs

Both state entities had in place some level of decriminalization measures. In Uruguay it is legal to detain a certain amount of any type of drug on oneself, while in Colorado the decriminalization of marijuana was a reality since 1917, when the government declared legalization and cultivation of cannabis misdemeanor.[264] In this sense, Uruguay has in place a much more “liberal” mechanism in terms of decriminalization efforts overall, referring to all types of psychotropic substances.

Even if on the decriminalization aspect Uruguay is more liberal, Colorado had some experience with regulating a legal cannabis market before, in the form of medical marijuana. On November 7th 2000, by means of popular vote, Colorado citizens approved Amendment 20, which allowed for medical use of marijuana in the state, for patients that have approved medical consent.[265] Under the parameters of this law, patients would be allowed to possess up to two ounces of medical marijuana and are allowed to cultivate no more than six plants, with only three of these being able to flower at the same time.[266] The conditions for one to qualify for a medical marijuana permit are: Cachexia, Cancer, Chronic pain, Chronic nervous system disorders, Glaucoma, HIV or AIDS, Nausea, Persistent Muscle Spasms, Seizures.[267] The medical marijuana market took shape in the form of “dispensaries” across the state, since pharmacies were not allowed to indulge any type of prescription or refill, cannabis being illegal under federal law. The dispensaries in Colorado offered a large choice pallet of marijuana strains and edibles for their customers and also offered “clones”[268] to those who desired to grow their own cannabis plants.[269]

Even if on the decriminalization aspect Uruguay has a larger score, the pre-existence of a regulation program from marijuana in Colorado offered the U.S. state a start-up point for its recreational marijuana market and built it on principles of the medical marijuana policy model. Uruguay did not have the luxury of one such pilot-program and was forced to deal first-hand with its new regulatory schematic. This point is another white ball for Colorado. Existence of administrative mechanism

This aspect refers to the regulatory body that deals with marihuana and tries to point out if the law can be regulated by a pre-existing body of the state or it requires the creation of a new one The creation of a separate body to deal with a policy can entail additional effort, while putting the new law under the management of an already existing structure is much easier.

For Colorado, the Department of Revenue was charged with dealing with recreational marijuana business. Since it was already there, in place, hat minimized the efforts for the state in implementing the policy and sustaining its course. It corresponded with the main principle of the policy, that of revenue creation and was thus the most entitled body of state to deal with it.

Even if the IRCCA also corresponds to the needs of the policy, it was not there to begin with. It was created as a result of the cannabis legalization and put under the charge of the Junta Nacional des drogas. It entailed additional effort to create and put more bureaucratization in place by expanding the chain of command even further (Government-Junta Nacional des Drogas-IRCCA-Citizens vs. Government-Department of Revenue-Citizens in Colorado).

The pre-existence of a regulating body in Colorado that was anointed to deal with the cannabis policy is a definite plus. Even if Uruguay’s IRCCA is conforming with the principles of the policy, it entails more effort given the aspect of the over-regulation implied by the form of the law. Implementation agents

This sub-section will discuss the implementation chain. Was it the ones who promoted the law the ones to also implement it and how did that fare along?

In Uruguay the proposition was made by the president, Pepe Jose Mujica, and was passed by parliament after a year of postponing and debate. The regulation passed on to the government who went ahead and created the IRCCA for this purpose. The problem in this case is not the fact that the IRCCA was created and tasked with handling the law, but the fact that the original body which created and proposed the law was a volatile one in its nature. In 2014 the elections for the presidential chair in Uruguay were won by Tabare Vazqueaz an opponent of the law, even if he represented his Broad Party. As an opponent of the cannabis legalization, Vazquez thwarted the efforts of his predecessor, crippling the still fragile implementation schematic put in place by the previous administration, making it one of the prime reasons for why the implementation of the new law in Uruguay took so long and paid off so badly in the beginning.[270] After five days in office, he trampled down on the implementation scheme to sell marihuana in pharmacies and said “there is no need to rush”, giving a hard blow to the implementation efforts thus far.[271] His attitude towards the law is probably the main reason for the derailment of the implementation procedures and created a costly consequence for the law, postponing the sales of pot in pharmacies for more than a year and a half.

Since amendment 64 was passed by popular, there is no place to discuss this aspect. The proponents are part of the civil society, and it would be impossible for them to represent a top down implementation agency.

In this case there is no “winner”. The only aspect that is of interest is the implementation halt created by the presidential election in Uruguay, creating an quasi-excuse for the delay created to the implementation, the slow-pace of registration of cannabis growers and clubs and the postponing of legal sales in pharmacies. Final word on feasibility

In short term practices, Colorado has once again proven that its regulatory schematic is superior than that of Uruguay’s. In the long run, however, Colorado faces a serious problem when confronting prohibitionist federal laws and can derail at any time, while Uruguay can still work on its policies and improve upon, also given the postponement provided with the change in presidential administration that took place and gave Uruguay’s legal marihuana law a big “stab in the back.”

 4.4.3 Acceptability

The sixth and final dimension of the analysis is represented by “acceptability”. It is the only dimension that is influenced by all others, as it represents the most subjective aspect: the way the law is perceived by the stakeholders, which in turn directly impacts on how feasible it is, overall. Depending on how the law is constructed and how it aims at dealing with the problem proposed, it can affect different stake-holders in different ways and, as such, it is important to analyze the diverse parameters of acceptability: identification of the stakeholders in each case; acceptability of acting on the targeted problem; acceptability of the proposed policy, compared with other potential policies aimed at combating the same problem; degree of coercion that is associated with the proposed policy; judgements surrounding the adoption and implementation. Identification of stakeholders Colorado

The stakeholders in the case of Colorado are represented by: pro-cannabis civil society (the ones who were behind the proposition for Amendment 64 and its voters, and/or cannabis consumers), anti-cannabis civil society (those that opposed the law and vented about the law creating a lot of negative impacts regarding the increase in consumption and health risks), the local government and the Department of Revenue (the state bodies that are in charge of the whole regulation process), entrepreneurs (the investors that are in charge of the cannabis business and related businesses that have been affected by the rise of the marihuana market). Uruguay

Here, the stakeholder schematic is much easier. On one side there is the government, sole proponent and regulator of the law, and on the other hand there is civil society, which is split in pro and anti-cannabis and the growers, be they single or conglomerated into a club. Pharmacies will not be taken into consideration as stakeholders since they have not yet commenced any activity related to selling cannabis and are only being regarded as participants at a theoretical level. Acceptability on acting on the proposed problem Colorado

The proposed problem in both cases was the statute of marihuana and its legalization. Colorado legalized the drug by means of popular vote, with over 55 % of the voters being for the proposition while the remainder of 45 % opposed the measure. Since the law was adopted by popular demand, its acceptability cannot be contested, since the vote itself represents the consent of the majority towards the law, even if there was an opposition towards it. Moreover, it was also proposed by activists, which makes it even more valid in terms of acceptability. The government conformed itself with the will of the population and went on to implement the law the way it did. Uruguay

The case of Uruguay is trickier in this regard. As it was mentioned before, the law was passed through parliament after a tedious five month debate. In the first state of proposal, that came from President, Jose “Pepe” Mujica, it was shelved due to heavy opposition from the population. After the law passed from parliament in December 2013 and was officially implemented as of April 2014, the percentage of Uruguayans in favor of the law was only 34 %.[272] However, when asked if they preferred that marijuana remained illegal or be administered by the state, a heavy percentage opted in favor of state regulation.[273] The level of acceptability in the case of Uruguay was much lower, given the opposition the law faced and most importantly because of the fact it did not came to be as a measure of popular demand, but as a top-down approach, which did not please most of its citizens. In this aspect Colorado once more outshined Uruguay, given the means by which the law came to be enacted. Acceptability of the proposed policy in comparison to other policy options for the targeted problem

Since the policies under study deal with mutating the legal status of an illegal substance, marihuana, there mainly two course of action. The first one, which has been used up to this point, the war on drugs, and has been proven to be highly ineffective and very costly, both financially and in the lines of human life loss, and not to mention environmental damage,[274] and the second option that is the one under discussion in this study, the legalization. All in all, the policy option in the case of the legality statute of drugs is a two way street: either legal or illegal, and in conformity with the statute one adopts a regulatory framework, which might prove to be the better choice in discussion. Since the study is trying to assess the durability of the policies overall, it is pointless to try and reassess them all over again, but to focus the debate on the issue of legality.

The legalization in both cases came as an alternative to the war on drugs approach, which has been proven to be highly ineffective.[275] Both constituencies had this in mind when they went ahead with measure; it came as an alternative to the war on drugs in the first place since the measure itself was not providing with much positive results and showed no prospects of improvement. So keeping the drug under the illegal status was not an option any longer for any of the two state, and as such the regulatory framework was created. Even if the Uruguayans were reluctant to the legalization, their preference to allow the state to take control of the cannabis market showed a tacit accept towards the law, providing the grounds necessary to deem both of these legislative initiatives acceptable, in any form they may possess, to the option of keeping the drug illegal with the entailed “war on drugs” as a result. It is worth reminding the fact the Uruguay allows its citizens to possess a “reasonable” amount of any drugs on them for consumption purposes, creating even higher prospects in terms of acceptability in this case. Degree of coercion associated with the policy

Since we are dealing with the regulation of a prior illegal substance, the amount of coercion associated with these policies is always going to be higher than with any other. Bear in mind the fact that the legalization itself is a means by which the level of coercion imposed while the substance was illegal is greatly diminished, but that doesn’t make it a “free-for-all” type of practice. The limits and parameters under which the new legal system functions are the ones that will determine the level of coercion associated with these new legal procedures. Colorado

The situation with Colorado is very straightforward, since many of the details have been already grinded over and over again throughout the study. It is a liberal approach, as to give the possibility to monetize the substance. Citizens can grow up to six plants per household and possess/purchase up to 1 ounce at a single transaction. Non-state citizens are also allowed to possess/purchase ¼ ounce per transaction, making Colorado a haven for pot-tourists. The age limit to purchase marihuana in retail stores in 21, while public consumption of marihuana is prohibited. These regulatory parameters give Colorado a fairly liberal aspect on their approach to regulating marihuana. Uruguay 

Uruguay is much stricter in this sense and as such, the degree of coercion is much higher, given the over-regulation present in the law. Only Uruguayan citizens can purchase (in theory) or grow marihuana, while tourists are prohibited in doing so. To grow one must register with the IRCCA, the regulating body of the marihuana “market”, must be 18 years of age, and not grow more than six plants for single growers, and no more than 99 plants per year for cannabis-clubs. There is a strict monthly ration for each citizen, and that is 40 grams, regardless if they grow it or sell it.[276] This particular aspect is the most debated one in terms of coercion and over-regulation, being the one which is able to create to most unexpected negative effects, which have been already mentioned earlier in the study. The age of legality in Uruguay is 18 years, but apart from this aspect, everything else screams “over-regulation” and has created a very powerful sense of coercion, one with which the citizens of the state are quite unhappy about, hence the reluctance of many to register with the IRCCA and be “part of the system”. It is clear, at this point, that the level of coercion in Uruguay’s system is far greater than the one in Colorado, hence most of the negative effects and potential negative spill-overs. Judgements surrounding the adoption and implementation of the law

In this sub-division the most relevant aspects that are to be discussed are represented by the opinions of different stakeholders with regards to the law and its implementation. The judgements are purely subjective, as they are formulated as stated opinions and involve a high dose of feelings and subjectivity. Nevertheless, they are very important as they represent the positions that each stakeholder takes when confronted with the law and its aftermath. To be able to match the arguments accordingly, the divide between the judgement sets is being done as “pro-cannabis” vs. “anti-cannabis”. Colorado 

Colorado was from the start polarized in adopting Amendment 64. While the law passed by popular vote with 55 % for, that leaves 45 % of the voters, which at the time, went against the law. That means that almost half of the total of votes expressed in the ballot were against marihuana legalization in the state.

The ones that opposed cannabis legalization cited medical arguments, especially relating to mental health and increased youth consumption. Dr. Eden Evins, a Harvard psychiatry professor, was cited on the biochemical effects that cannabis has on the central nervous system. The repeated over-stimulation of the cannabinoid system, which naturally occurs in the brain, can “alter the function of the cannabinoid receptors, along with other changes in the brain… leading to addiction, withdrawal symptoms, and to effects on cognition (memory, thinking, concentration, movement, coordination etc.)”.[277] The increased usage of cannabis among teens was also among the concerns stated, the fear factor being that of the effects the drug has on the developing brain, the reasoning being that “those with early, or teenage, onset of marihuana use had significantly poorer sustained attention, cognitive inhibition (or) executive control, and abstract reasoning compared with adults who started using.”[278] The arguments cited by the anti-legalizers have scientific basis and have their merit, and may constitute a basis for further and stricter regulation.

The arguments of the pro-cannabis “community”, are more substantial and have a harder impact on the economic-social-political dynamic within the state. One of the first cited arguments would be the one that it would help minorities who have been “disproportionately affected by criminalization”.[279] Up until now this aspect has not been proven fruitful, since the disproportionate rate of arrests among blacks has become even deeper than before, as it was shown earlier in the study. One important arguments, that was also substantiated, is the one for diverting taxpayer dollars from law enforcement (related to marijuana offenses) to other sectors, were the need for funding is greater.[280] The increase in revenue and reinvestment into education and other sectors has been the base-arguments upon which the policy was constructed, an argument that proved to be more than substantiated if one is to take into account the revenue gain and the exponential growth of the revenue rate over time. It was also cited as being less harmful than the recreational use of alcohol, being one of the “more contentious claims of the debate…”;[281] Mason Tvert, of the Marijuana Policy Project stated in an interview for the International Business Times that: “The message is simple: if we can regulate alcohol we can regulate a far less harmful substance… Marijuana has been illegal because too many people think it is too dangerous to allow adults to use, when in fact it is less harmful than alcohol”.[282] Having more substantiated arguments and also arguments that would bring about powerful changes about, the debate was won by the pro-cannabis activists, and the results have been up on the wall for some time now. Uruguay

In Uruguay the debate was a little bit different. Repeating what was already stated, the law was passed by the parliament following an initiative from the presidential administration, represented at the time by President, Jose “Pepe” Mujica. The supporters of legal marihuana in this case are represented by the initiators of the law and part of the population, the presidential administration, citing arguments that range from: creating a regulated market, end dependence of local users on illegal production and illegal imports from Paraguay, and put a stop to associated domestic criminality.[283] The opponents, which consisted of the opposition in the parliament, opposition from inside the governing party (see current president Vazquez) and most of the population (~60 %) were against the law. The anti-arguments for legalizing the substance are in the lines of the ones presented for the case of Colorado (mental health issues and increased usage rates), with considerable differences when taking into account the context in which Uruguay is set: since the crop is associated with violent crimes, taking the criminality out of the question would mean that the “government would see a rapid withdrawal of cash from the economy and the slowing of economic growth, to say nothing of the instability it would create if those who control the industry are displaced to other areas of criminal endeavor”.[284] Given the context in which Uruguay is set, the reluctance to legalize marijuana has much more grounds, thus the strong opposition created.

The legalization in Uruguay posed more risk than the one in Colorado. The unstable environment, in regards to drug trafficking and criminality, gave the tone for the over-regulation, fact which leads to the many constraints, which in turn impact negatively on the development and implementation of the law overall. The current form of the law, which has been opposed for good reason, will require further rethinking. Final word on acceptability

As this final dimension is the one that is impacted upon from the later five that have been analyzed, it is thus the most easy to influence. Colorado had higher acceptability rates given its prior experiments with medical marijuana, while the reluctance was greater among Uruguayans given the environment in which they are set. All in all, the rate of acceptability was far greater in the U.S.A., even with the opposition from the anti-cannabis “community”, but only due to the stable environment and prior experience with a legal marihuana system. Uruguay lacked acceptability from both populace and government opposition, and forced the law rather than creating the framework necessary to make it acceptable, even if the law allows for possession of all kinds of drugs for personal use. The dynamics at play here are far greater and deserve more attention and further study to be able to consistently understand the nature of the dynamics involved and how they impacted the evolution of the law.


The present study set out to find out how durable were the marihuana legalization policies that Colorado, U.S.A. and Uruguay implemented, compared to each other, and to determine which model of implementation was more efficient overall. The study has identified the effects and implementation procedures designed and “put to work” in the two states, and has determined which policy set is more durable in its given context overall, and which design is more effective.

The overall objective of the study was to determine which model of policy implementation in the case of marihuana legalization was most effective, and will thus be more suitable for further approaches in similar contexts. The study sought to answer two questions:

  1. How durable were each policy sets (Colorado vs. Uruguay) in comparison to each other?
  2. Which model is more effective overall, given the opportunity to be replicated in a similar context?

5.1 Empirical findings

The empirical findings in this study are chapter specific and were summarized within their respective chapters: 1. Socio-political-economic climate; 2. The cannabis regulation policies in Colorado, U.S.A. and Uruguay; 3. Policy effects in Colorado and Uruguay, with their respective sub-chapters: 4. Effectiveness, 5. Unintended effects, 6. Equity; 7. Implementation, with its afferent sub-chapters: 8. Cost, 9. Feasibility and 10. Acceptability. This section of the conclusion will synthesize the empirical findings in order to answer the two main research questions posed by the study:

  1. How durable were each policy sets (Colorado vs. Uruguay) in comparison to each other?

In their present form and given all the implementation procedures up to this point in time, Colorado has managed to surpass Uruguay by far, the only deficient aspect being that the Colorado is still part of a federal system and the marihuana legalization law is in full contradiction with the federal law. Out-scoring Uruguay in all of the six dimensions (Effectiveness; Unintended Effects; Equity; Cost; Feasibility; Acceptability), with an exception in terms of long-term feasibility, Colorado manages to get the “gold medal”.

  1. Which model is more effective overall, given the opportunity to be replicated in a similar context?

The liberal model used by Colorado to regulate its new market has been found to be much more effective than the over-regulatory system that was designed by Uruguay, while also taking into account the problematic context in which Uruguay is set.

5.2 Policy implications

The policy implications of the study go in lines of further recommendations to the states, in order to further enhance the positive effects that their laws are producing. Uruguay should revise its strategy and take into account more dimensions of social dynamics and the involvement and impact on criminality that their laws are producing, and try to adjust, as best possible, to be able to thoroughly manage the spill-overs produced by these laws. Colorado, on the other hand, should watch out with the increased consumption rate among teenagers and start devising a strategy aimed at informing them about the risks of marihuana over-consumption and create other platforms that would help diminish these numbers.

All in all, the main idea behind the research was to provide an analysis as to thoroughly assess the implications of the models used in implementing cannabis regulations policy, to offer models for future endeavors in this policy area. Considering the damage that has been done, thus far, in southern-hemispheric states by the “war on drugs”, with the many negative implications it had on hindering the development of these states (environmental, economic, social and political negative consequences, plus public health hazards and increased criminality rates), the decriminalization/legalization approaches are much needed in order to provide an improved degree of stability as to provide with the much needed back-ground to further the development of these states in all aspect of life. In the near future such a scenario will not be hard to fathom, as the increasing numbers of casualties, of any nature, demand a response.

5.3 Recommendations for future research

The scale of the present debate is very extensive and has brilliant prospects of over-extension and further research. The impacts that the marihuana legalization phenomenon had are multi-faceted and will provoke a huge chain of spill-over effects. The implications that the new legality status of the drug has on the black-market, its former “holder” are worth looking into, as this transitional picture can be one to provide valuable information on how the drug trade was affected by the legalization of marihuana and what amount of profit was shifted from the underground market to the “surface”.

Another interesting aspect is the impact the legalization movement will have on the outer borders. While Colorado might be a pioneer in this sense and the effects will echo across the U.S.A. and will definitely have a say in a future, federal-scale legalization of marihuana, Uruguay’s legalization move had an international echo. The idea behind any future research in this scenario is to determine the extent of that echo and its possible future implications in similar scenarios.


5.4 Limitations of the study

The study has presented a valuable perspective on two different pioneering states in the arena of marihuana legalization. Given the differences between the many differences between the two states, and the methodology utilized, the study encountered several limitations in terms of data collection. The data was gathered from primary sources (reports, statistics) and from secondary ones (other studies, articles etc.). The issues encountered in this respect are the ones related to data accessibility. While in Colorado, U.S.A. most of the data desired by the study was easily accessible, comparable data sets in Uruguay, for some of the cases, were not as easily accessible or inexistent at times. Not finding perfectly comparable units of comparison for some of the dimension required that the study find reasonably close or adaptable units of comparison, which might not provide with a 100 % percent relevance rate, giving the study altogether a lesser relevance rate than one might expect.


5.5 Closing word

In spite of the many differences between the two constituencies and the overall increased durability of the socio-liberal model used by Colorado, U.S.A., both the former and Uruguay have provided with invaluable knowledge and prospects for future endeavors in the “realm” of marihuana legalization. The liberal model used by Colorado to regulate marihuana can serve the rest of the U.S.A and other similar states, in terms of economic approach and social development. The model proposed by Uruguay will serve as a lesson and will allow for further improvement in the future, while the example it set for the rest of the world might cause a land-slide of legalizations in other, southern hemispheric states, where the drug-trafficking and production issues are very pregnant and the war on drugs has been creating chaos-scenarios.




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  79. John Aguilar – Marijuana gap divides Colorado towns that sell pot, those that don’t;
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  96. Meghan Demaria – This City Is Using Its Marijuana Tax Earning To Help The Homeless –;
  97. Sam Becker – Need a Career Change? Here are 16 Jobs in Marijuana Industry –;
  98. Joel Warner – Marijuana Legalization: Could 2016 be the year federal law derails the cannabis movement? –;
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  100. Medical Marijuana Registry. FAQ –;
  101. Jill Patton – Marijuana on the Ballot: The best arguments for and against legalizing pot –;
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