Do you know why economists are likely to be in favor of Washington and Colorado legalizing marijuana use? Not because they care much about freedom or even that they think it is welfare improving. No, not at all. Remember, “we” economists are self-interested creatures. And this change in the law will be a very useful “natural experiment” that economists will be sure to exploit in future research.
What the heck does that mean? Remember when it comes to social policy it is almost impossible to run controlled experiments. For example, how to run experiments of the impact of complete poverty on health outcomes? Do you randomly take people’s incomes away and compare their life outcomes to everyone else? Not exactly. So what economists try to do is examine “natural” changes to the human condition that are unpredictable or unplanned that can mimic the set-up of what a controlled experiment can do. I won’t bore you with the details of what we do from here. But this change in law in both CO and WA will surely be useful to study many topics, including ones for which you may never guess at the outset a change on pot-smoking laws would be useful for.