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Title: The Next Episode: Recreational Cannabis Legalization in California, a Patchwork of Local Policies, and the Importance of Equity Models in the Emerging Cannabis Industry
Authors: Dobson, Allegra
Advisors: Isenberg, Alison
Department: Woodrow Wilson School
Class Year: 2019
Abstract: This thesis aims to examine the patchwork of local cannabis policy that has emerged in California following the passage of Proposition 64, which legalized recreational adult use cannabis throughout the state and in particular, to focus on the model of equity that is emerging in a few California cities. The first part of this thesis overviews the history of marijuana and the war on drugs, as well as some of the major controversies and problems in the emerging industry. Through quantitative analysis of California counties and demographic data from the US Census Bureau, this thesis reinforces the notion that marijuana is not a drug affiliated with any racial or ethnic group, socioeconomic class, etc.; instead, legality is only found to be significant with political affiliation and veteran status. Graphs and charts generated from the quantitative analysis also demonstrate the breakdown of limited legality within the state. This thesis also seeks to address a gap in the literature about the variety of localized policies emerging in the wake of cannabis legalization and begins to question what policies might be working best, and to advocate for how cannabis legalization could be used as a mechanism for racial and social justice in the wake of the war on drugs. In pursuit of this goal, case studies of relevant cities were examined, in particular focusing on those with equity programs. Not only do these equity programs prioritize groups which have been disproportionately harmed by the war on drugs, they also have the potential to move business from the black market to the legal one. Five cities in California now have equity programs in place. Of those, Oakland, San Francisco, and Los Angeles seem to be the leaders according to the media and policy makers both within and out of the state of California, and were thus observed as the three main case studies. While the rollout of these programs has been slow, meaning more time is necessary to thoroughly evaluate their success, there are elements from each city that could be readily integrated into any city, county, or state considering marijuana legalization. Finally, this thesis compares the equity model with other major trends within the state, such as non-equity legalization programs, bans, grandfathering from the medical era, and “flip-flopping” regions, as well as the unique case of the Emerald Triangle, to demonstrate the strengths and weaknesses of other models as well as to show how even small equity considerations could be integrated within any kind of cannabis framework. The major conclusion of this thesis is that the rollout of legal adult use marijuana has been complicated and diverse within the state of California, but that equity models or integration of equity considerations within larger programs offer promise for racial and social justice, and alleviating the persistence of the black-market to some degree. Finally, given that many states such as New Jersey are looking at the equity models of California cities in drafting their own policy, it reinforces the need for further examination and expanding literature on this subject. Given equity is increasingly being considered by localities and written about in the media throughout the United States, this thesis offers a recommendation of a few equity considerations (from the case studies) that could be integrated into localities considering cannabis legalization, whether medical or recreational.
Type of Material: Princeton University Senior Theses
Language: en
Appears in Collections:Woodrow Wilson School, 1929-2019

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