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Assessing the Effects of Medical Marijuana Laws on Marijuana and Alcohol Use: The Devil is in the Details

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  • Rosalie Liccardo Pacula
  • David Powell
  • Paul Heaton
  • Eric L. Sevigny

Abstract

This paper sheds light on previous inconsistencies identified in the literature regarding the relationship between medical marijuana laws (MML) and recreational marijuana use by closely examining the importance of policy dimensions (registration requirements, home cultivation, dispensaries) and the timing of them. Using data from our own legal analysis of state MMLs, we evaluate which features are associated with adult and youth recreational use by linking these policy variables to data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (NLSY97), the Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) and the Treatment Episodes Data System (TEDS). Our analyses control for state and year fixed effects, using within state policy changes over time to estimate the effect on changes in our outcome variables using a difference-in-differences approach. We find that while simple dichotomous indicators are generally not associated with marijuana use, specific dimensions of MMLs, namely home cultivation and legal dispensaries, are positively associated with marijuana use in each data set. Moreover, these same dimensions are tied to binge drinking and fatal alcohol automobile accidents as well. The findings have important implications for states considering legalization of marijuana, as regulating access to and promotion of dispensaries may be key for reducing the harms associated with these policies.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 19302.

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Date of creation: Aug 2013
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:19302

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  1. Caulkins Jonathan P., 1995. "Domestic Geographic Variation in Illicit Drug Prices," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 37(1), pages 38-56, January.
  2. Frank J. Chaloupka & Adit Laixuthai, 1994. "Do Youths Substitute Alcohol and Marijuana? Some Econometric Evidence," NBER Working Papers 4662, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Santos Silva, Joao & Tenreyro, Silvana, 2005. "The Log of Gravity," CEPR Discussion Papers, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers 5311, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  4. Saffer, Henry & Chaloupka, Frank, 1999. "The Demand for Illicit Drugs," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, Western Economic Association International, vol. 37(3), pages 401-11, July.
  5. Crost, Benjamin & Guerrero, Santiago, 2012. "The effect of alcohol availability on marijuana use: Evidence from the minimum legal drinking age," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 31(1), pages 112-121.
  6. Pacula, Rosalie Liccardo, 1998. "Does increasing the beer tax reduce marijuana consumption?," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 17(5), pages 557-585, October.
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Cited by:
  1. Hefei Wen & Jason Hockenberry & Janet R. Cummings, 2014. "The Effect of Medical Marijuana Laws on Marijuana, Alcohol, and Hard Drug Use," NBER Working Papers 20085, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

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