Much has been said about the revenue that marijuana legalization might bring to Connecticut. Few, however, discuss the costs of such a policy. Omitting costs is a critical oversight: no policy or business plan would be complete without discussing both sides of the balance sheet. Such costs exceed, by more than 90 percent, the maximum projected official revenue estimate of $113.6 million for the third year of the proposed legalization program. (These costs are almost 300 percent of the minimum revenue estimate of $54.4 million, but to be conservative, this report uses the maximum estimate.)
Even a conservative estimate of a few projected economic and social costs of marijuana legalization in one state, Rhode Island, totaled $61.2 million for 2020, exceeding the revenues projected by pro-legalization activists by over 25 percent.
Cost center Projected annual cost % of revenues projected by pro-legalization activists
Administrative and enforcement costs $4.6 million 9.5%
Increased drugged driving fatalities $13.2 million 27.3%
Increased homelessness $13.7 million 28.4%
Increased ER visits $1.3 million 2.7%
Marijuana concentrate extraction lab explosions $1.1 million 2.3%
Workplace:  Lost productivity $17.9 million 37.1%
Workplace:  More accidents $5.7 million 11.8%
TOTAL $57.5 million 119.1%
  • Rhode Island’s business community and employees will bear much of these costs, in the form of lost productivity and workplace accidents. As most people injured in serious drug-related workplace accidents are co-workers of the drug-using employee or other third parties, this will affect the state’s workforce broadly.
  • The above numbers represent a very conservative model, and do not include a large list of likely cost centers, including:
    • Increases in alcohol use and abuse
    • Increases in tobacco use
    • More opioid abuse
    • Increases in short-term/long-term recovery for marijuana use disorders
    • Greater marijuana use among underage students
    • Property and other economic damage from marijuana extraction lab explosions
    • Controlling an expanded black market, sales to minors, and public intoxication
    • Other administrative burdens of most state legalization programs, such as:
      • money for drugged driving awareness campaigns;
      • drug prevention programs; and
      • pesticide control and other agricultural oversight mechanisms
    • Long-term health impacts of marijuana use