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Marijuana markets – cross-cultural policy comparison

Project Members: 
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Dr Vendula Belackova
Adjunct Senior Lecturer
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Dr Marian Shanahan
Conjoint Senior Lecturer
Project Main Description: 

The main aim of this cross-cultural comparative study of marijuana markets in Australia, United States (Florida) and the Czech Republic is to improve knowledge of what impacts different legal regimes have on marijuana markets. The study will collect and analyse qualitative and quantitative data that will help to explain the patterns of marijuana markets and related risks to public health and public safety in response to different drug policy measures. 

Project Collaborators: External: 

Dr Tomas Zabransky
Department of Addictology, First Faculty of Medicine, Charles University (Czech Republic)

After the Netherlands' experience with tolerated end-supply retail stores since the 1970s, the 21st century gave rise to other alternative models, such as social clubs where cannabis users grow co-jointly, for their own consumption, and share their production costs, as found in Spain and Belgium. Australia, since the 1990s, has led the way with various decriminalisations of personal use regimes (evaluated by DPMP in the past). 
In late 2012, two U.S. states, Colorado and Washington, decided to transfer their medicinal cannabis programs into a market with free access to adult cannabis users. The state of Florida remains, however, punitive towards cannabis, and as such, represents a typical drug policy setting where prohibition is strictly enforced.
In the Czech Republic, on the other hand, contemporary legislation only criminalizes possession of greater than small amount of cannabis (small amounts are classified as a misdemeanour); beginning January 2010 this also accounts for growing five cannabis plants. Cannabis users are thus provided an incentive to grow cannabis themselves, and unlike in social clubs, to avoid organized growing. Evaluation of these policies is of crucial interest to the international drug policy community, as well as decision makers. 
The goal of the study on marijuana markets is to provide an insight into the economic and social network that exist in marijuana markets in a particular geographic and policy location (New South Wales, US - North Florida, The Czech Republic). The study is designed as cross-cultural mixed methods research.
  1. The first aim of the study is to explain the micro-level processes in the patterns shown by quantitative data provided by marijuana users within the National Drug Strategy Household Survey, Illicit Drugs Reporting System, Ecstasy and Related Drugs Reporting System (AU), National Household Survey on Drug Use and Health / NSDUH (US), and the General Population Survey on Substance Use and Attitudes Towards It (CZ). 
  2. The second aim of the study is to provide a detailed comparison between marijuana markets in Australia, the US, and in the Czech Republic that are governed by different drug policy framework. Such a comparison can provide an insight into how individuals react under two different drug policies on an aggregate and individual level.
  3. The third aim of the project is construction of a parametrical model for cannabis policy evaluation that will identify the main factors that influence the dynamics of marihuana markets with respect to variation in price, prevailing product type and quality, acquisition patterns, and the related risks.
Design and Method: 
a. Qualitative study in Australia – Sydney, New South Wales
We intend to conduct 25 semi structured anonymous interviews with respondents. Respondents will be asked questions pertaining to their actions in the marijuana markets. The interview will last approximately 1 hour in length. The same interview guide was used in the Local Marijuana Markets study as in the Czech Republic and in North-Central Florida in 2009. Participants can directly the study coordinator (see details below), no identifying information will be collected.
b. Quantitative data aggregation
The available (already collected) quantitative datasets on substance use and cannabis market patterns will be gathered and processed within the study, in order to build a parametrical model of cannabis markets. The following datasets will be used:
  • AUSTRALIA: National Drug Strategy Household Survey 2013, Illicit Drugs Reporting System 2013, Ecstasy and Related Drugs Reporting System 2013
  • UNITED STATES: National Household Survey on Drug Use and Health / NSDUH (US) 2008 and 2013
  • CZECH REPUBLIC: General Population Survey on Substance Use and Attitudes Towards It 2008 and 2012.
c. Data analysis
The data will be analysed inductively though qualitative coding techniques. The authors will use the sensitizing concepts that were employed in constructing the research guide to determine if the data match or are contrary to the explanations of the concepts. The data will also be analysed at a later time in conjunction with parallel research that is being conducted on drug policy evaluation study in the Czech Republic. 
In the course of the analysis, the drug policy incentives and constraints in each of the environments will be identified. The data collected via proposed qualitative research shall enrich the parametrical model of marijuana markets constructed with the use of available quantitative data. The model shall be constructed for all the three countries for which comparative datasets will be available (Australia, the Czech Republic and the US) and would serve the purpose of evaluating changes in the drug  policy framework. 

Interviews commenced in October 2014. 


Through this study, better informed decision making can be achieved. Cannabis policies around the world have been subjected to turbulent changes in the last decade, with the aim to rationalize approaches towards cannabis to and minimize the harms caused by its prohibition.

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