Do medical marijuana laws increase hard drug use?
AbstractMedical marijuana laws generate significant policy debates regarding drug policy. In particular, if marijuana is a complement or a gateway drug to hard drugs, these laws would increase not only the usage of marijuana but hard drugs such as cocaine and heroin. In this paper, I empirically study the relationships between marijuana and cocaine or heroin by analyzing data on drug possession arrests and rehabilitation treatment admissions. I find that medical marijuana laws increase marijuana arrests and treatments by 10–20%. However, there is no evidence that cocaine and heroin usage increases after the passage of medical marijuana laws. In fact, the estimates on cocaine and heroin arrests or treatments are uniformly negative. From the arrest data, the estimates indicate a 0–20% decrease in possession arrests for cocaine and heroin combined. From the treatment data, the estimates show a 20% decrease in heroin treatments but no significant effect on cocaine treatments. These results suggest that marijuana could be a substitute for heroin.
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Bibliographic InfoPaper provided by Victoria University of Wellington, School of Economics and Finance in its series Working Paper Series with number 3195.
Date of creation: 2014
Date of revision:
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Postal: Alice Fong, Administrator, School of Economics and Finance, Victoria Business School, Victoria University of Wellington, PO Box 600 Wellington, New Zealand
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Cocaine; Heroin; Illegal drug use; Marijuana; Medical marijuana laws;
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