Addictions, Drug & Alcohol Institute

New: Cannabis Legalization in WA: Policy Evolution and Emerging Evidence from the First 9 Years


The new book THE CANNABIS SOCIAL CLUB (Routledge, 2023) features a chapter focused on policy evolution and emerging evidence from the first nine years of cannabis legalization in Washington state that was co-authored by Julia Dilley (Oregon Health Authority and UW), Caislin Firth (UW ADAI), and Beau Kilmer (RAND Corporation).

The book’s title, “Cannabis Social Club,” is a reference to typically formal, non-profit associations of adult cannabis users who grow and distribute cannabis close to or at cost price among themselves. In most places, these clubs remain grassroots, unregulated, user-driven groups, but this model has been legalized in Uruguay and Malta and has been featured in recent debates and legislative proposals in other countries as well. The book brings together internationally respected experts to share case studies, research findings, and policy reflections related to the cannabis social club model.

The chapter written by Dilley, Firth, and Rand, “Cannabis Legalization in Washington: Policy Evolution and Emerging Evidence from the First Nine Years” (chapter 9), provides a detailed description of the implementation, unique factors, and evolution of commercial cannabis legalization in Washington State, one of the first U.S. states to legalize nonmedical use.

Of relevance to the cannabis social club model, the authors describe how the state moved from medical cannabis “collective gardens” to “cooperatives” to bring oversight to the previously unregulated medical market after nonmedical sales were allowed.

They also review the emerging evidence about changes in cannabis consumption and the potential impacts that legalization has had on public health, criminal justice, and safety outcomes in the state.

The chapter makes it clear that legalization is a complex and dynamic process with outcomes that can be difficult to identify clearly or predict. The effects of legalization in one region may not be transferrable to other locations, so jurisdictions considering legalization can’t rely on Washington’s experience alone when planning for their own. Understanding the potential benefits and harms of repealing cannabis prohibition requires continued legal and policy monitoring and the awareness that local variations may influence outcomes.

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Citation: Dilley J, Firth C, Kilmer B. Cannabis legalization in Washington: Policy evolution and emerging evidence from the first nine years. IN: Pardal M (ed.). THE CANNABIS SOCIAL CLUB. Abingdon, UK: Routledge, 2023, pp. 155-186. Book available for purchase here.