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Do Citizens Know Whether Their State Has Decriminalized Marijuana? Assessing the Perceptual Component of Deterrence Theory

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Author Info

  • MacCoun Robert

    (University of California at Berkeley)

  • Pacula Rosalie Liccardo

    (RAND Corporation and NBER)

  • Chriqui Jamie

    (University of Illinois at Chicago)

  • Harris Katherine

    (RAND Corporation)

  • Reuter Peter

    (University of Maryland - College Park and RAND)

Abstract

Deterrence theory proposes that legal compliance is influenced by the anticipated risk of legal sanctions. This implies that changes in law will produce corresponding changes in behavior, but the marijuana decriminalization literature finds only fragmentary support for this prediction. But few studies have directly assessed the accuracy of citizens’ perceptions of legal sanctions. The heterogeneity in state statutory penalties for marijuana possession across the United States provides an opportunity to examine this issue. Using national survey data, we find that the percentages who believe they could be jailed for marijuana possession are quite similar in both states that have removed those penalties and those that have not. Our results help to clarify why statistical studies have found inconsistent support for an effect of decriminalization on marijuana possession.

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by De Gruyter in its journal Review of Law & Economics.

Volume (Year): 5 (2009)
Issue (Month): 1 (June)
Pages: 347-371

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Handle: RePEc:bpj:rlecon:v:5:y:2009:i:1:n:15

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Web page: http://www.degruyter.com

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Cited by:
  1. John J. Donohue III & Benjamin Ewing & David Peloquin, 2011. "Rethinking America's Illegal Drug Policy," NBER Working Papers 16776, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Chu, Yu-Wei Luke, 2014. "The effects of medical marijuana laws on illegal marijuana use," Working Paper Series 3212, Victoria University of Wellington, School of Economics and Finance.
  3. Anderson, D. Mark & Rees, Daniel I., 2012. "Per Se Drugged Driving Laws and Traffic Fatalities," IZA Discussion Papers 7048, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).

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