Skip to main content Skip to secondary navigation

Making Legalized Marijuana Production and Sale Non-Profit to Protect Public Health

Main content start


Canada and U.S. states that have legalized recreational marijuana have generally allowed for-profit corporate producers and sellers.The economic interests of for-profit sellers are aligned with increasing the rate of heavy use. 

For profit business depends on addicted customers, who account for most of the revenue from drugs that can be misused.


  • Both the U.S. and other countries offer examples of non-profit sale of addictive products that can be used by states choosing to legalize recreational cannabis.

  • For example, Vermont and Washington D.C. have a “grow and give” model which allows limited amounts of cannabis to be grown and shared with other people, but not sold . This model undercuts the black market and reduces arrests without creating incentives to increase sales of cannabis. Other countries sell cannabis in controlled non-profit or government settings.


For-profit production and sale of addictive drugs damages public health, as demonstrated by the tobacco and alcohol industries. Rather than reflexively adopt a for-profit model for cannabis, legalizing states and countries can consider alternatives such as government monopolies in retail or supply, restricting sales to non-profit public benefit corporations, or “grow and give” models.

Key Policy Evidence:

  • Several countries, such as Sweden and Norway, as well as some U.S. states, sell alcoholic beverages through government-owned stores that consistently check IDs, have limited hours, and do not engage in extensive product promotions. This government monopoly model yields lower rates of alcohol-related consumption and problems than does a for-profit retail model. Such a model may prove effective for cannabis as well.
  • Lower consumption rates in monopoly states were associated with a 9.3% lower alcohol-impaired driving death rate under age 21, according to a 2006 study. Alcohol monopolies may prevent 45 impaired driving deaths annually. 
  • Other countries formally legalize or condone cannabis use and sale in controlled settings including pharmacies (Uruguay), cannabis clubs (Spain and Uruguay), “coffee shops” (the Netherlands) and government stores (some Canadian provinces). These approaches weaken the black market and do not create a corporate industry that has an incentive to maximize consumption.\