Open Access

Why Changes in Price Matter When Thinking About Marijuana Policy: A Review of the Literature on the Elasticity of Demand

Public Health Reviews201335:2

Published: 14 December 2013


Recent debates regarding liberalization of marijuana policies often rest on assumptions regarding the extent to which such policy changes would lead to a change in marijuana consumption and by whom. This paper reviews the economics literature assessing the responsiveness of consumption to changes in price and enforcement risk and explicitly considers how this responsiveness varies by different user groups. In doing so, it demonstrates how most of the research has examined responsiveness to prevalence of use, which is a composite of different user groups, rather than level of consumption among regular or heavy users, which represent the largest share of total quantities consumed. Thus, it is not possible to generate reliable estimates of the impact of liberalizing policies on either tax revenues or harms, as these outcomes are most directly influenced by the amounts consumed by regular or heavy users, not prevalence rates.

Key Words

Marijuana price price elasticity of demand