Marijuana Use In Washington State Nearly Twice As 'High' As Estimated
December 18, 2013

Marijuana Use In Washington State Nearly Twice As ‘High’ As Estimated

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

Marijuana users in Washington state are consuming twice the amount of cannabis as previously estimated, according to new research conducted by the Rand Corporation.

Recreational use of the drug for adults at least 21 years of age was legalized in November 2012, and the Washington Office of Financial Management had estimated that statewide marijuana consumption would peak at 85 metric tons in 2013. However, the new study suggests that between 135 and 225 metric tons of cannabis will actually be consumed this year, with 175 metric tons serving as the median estimate.

“RAND researchers say understanding the size and composition of the current marijuana market is important to help state policymakers make decisions about the number of marijuana sales licenses to issue, to accurately project tax revenues and provide a foundation for evaluations of the state's legalization of recreational marijuana,” the nonprofit research organization explained in a statement issued Wednesday.

“Updated federal data and information we collected from marijuana users in Washington prompted us to conclude that consumption is significantly larger than previously estimated,” added lead author and senior policy researcher Beau Kilmer. “There is still a lot of uncertainty surrounding marijuana market estimates, but our work used new insights and novel data collection tools to improve upon previous efforts.”

Next year, commercial marijuana stores and associated supply chains are slated to begin operations. According to RAND, the research was conducted in order to help the Washington State Liquor Control Board prepare for commercial cannabis sales, which will be regulated and taxed by the state government.

The original estimates were based on federal data from 2008 and 2009, which claimed that there were 363,000 past-month marijuana users in Washington – a number which increased to 556,000 for 2010 and 2011. The revised estimates were compiled using an online survey of marijuana users in Washington State, as well as data collected from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health.

“The online survey included novel approaches such as showing participants photos of marijuana to help them better report the actual quantity that they use,” the corporation said. “The RAND report estimates marijuana consumption in each of Washington's 39 counties, showing that the state's three most-populous counties (King, Snohomish and Pierce) account for about half of all use.”

“The federal National Survey on Drug Use and Health provides useful information about marijuana users, but it does not account for all of them,” added study co-author Jonathan Caulkins, a professor of research and public policy at Carnegie Mellon University. "We devoted serious attention to this undercounting issue in the report.”