The bill I have chosen to examine is bill H. R. 1983: States’ Medical Marijuana Patient Protection Act. This bill was sponsored by Barney Frank from Massachusetts. This bill calls for a rescheduling of marijuana and to defer each states ruling on its’ medical use. This bill would change federal laws to prohibit arrest or harassment of patients prescribed marijuana in any state that the state law allows.
There would be minimal cost in implementing this bill as the federal government is spending a large amount of funds to enforce this law as well as hold prisoners in facilities.
Currently there is a conflict between some state and federal laws on the subject of medical marijuana. According to PopVox.com there are currently no organizations opposing this bill, while it lists several organizations endorsing it. Currently the organizations endorsing this bill are the National Organization for Reform of Marijuana Laws, Marijuana Policy Project, the Drug Policy Alliance, Americans for Safe Access, Americans For Forfeiture Reform, and WinLiberty.
This bill, in my opinion, will affect the health care economy greatly. If this bill passes it will, in essence, create a new drug for the medical world. Currently, patients that are prescribed marijuana are in danger of getting arrested or harassed by the federal government whether the patients state laws allow it or not. This bill will give power to the state. If this bill passes, it will bring a new drug to the arena of medical drugs without the cost of developing the drug. Most new drugs that enter the market are patented to give incentive to pay high costs for research and development, while marijuana has already been created, researched, and developed. The barrier to entry will be low as marijuana is low in cost to grow and is in high demand.
If H.R. 1983 passes, the public living in states that allow medical marijuana will be free of fear of punishment of the federal government, which will lower the “price” of being prescribed marijuana in allowing states. The demand for marijuana would increase and lead to an increase in supply. It would enable the market to balance itself out to the equilibrium of supply and demand. Since there is no patent on the drug, barriers to entry would be minimal.
With the cost so high to sell and buy marijuana for any use, other substitutes for marijuana are able to increase their prices. The demand is high for pain management, appetite enhancers, as well as anxiety medicine leading to high prices for drugs such as Valium, Vicodin, Lortab, Percocet , and others which marijuana has been shown to be used for substitutes. If the government would allow states to rule on the legality of marijuana, the drug would become easier to buy and sell in certain states.
This would lead to lower barriers to entry and cost of selling bringing prices down for all marijuana substitutes. Currently, the federal government is artificially holding back the supply of the drug and the buyers, leading to dead weight loss. This policy will allow those who would like to supply the drug but don’t want to pay the high price to enter the market and lower the price that consumers have to pay to buy marijuana. The government will also save money currently being spent on enforcement of marijuana control.
I believe the government is being asked to pass this bill because consumers, sellers, and the government benefit from this bill being passed; lower costs for all three, lessening dead weight loss, and increasing income toward the government in sales tax. The losers in this bill could possibly be suppliers of marijuana substitutes. They will be forced to lower their prices to compensate for higher supply of their drugs substitute.
There could possibly be many externalities of the legalization of marijuana. With marijuana having a lower cost, cigar and cigarette smokers could move to smoking marijuana instead of tobacco. Fines may be created for driving under the influence of the drug as we have with alcohol. There would be more research toward marijuana for the health risks and benefits. Based on my analysis of this bill, I see more positive effects than negative. There would most likely be other externalities that have not been listed, and there may be other issues of drug control that would have to be implemented. In my opinion, giving the states’ rights to legalize or enforce control is a cheaper more efficient way to manage the market for marijuana.