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

Listed author(s):
  • 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)

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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File URL: https://www.degruyter.com/view/j/rle.2009.5.1/rle.2009.5.1.1227/rle.2009.5.1.1227.xml?format=INT
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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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References listed on IDEAS
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  1. Kessler, Daniel P & Levitt, Steven D, 1999. "Using Sentence Enhancements to Distinguish between Deterrence and Incapacitation," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 42(1), pages 343-363, April.
  2. Cameron, Lisa & Williams, Jenny, 2001. "Cannabis, Alcohol and Cigarettes: Substitutes or Complements?," The Economic Record, The Economic Society of Australia, vol. 77(236), pages 19-34, March.
  3. David A. Anderson, 2002. "The Deterrence Hypothesis and Picking Pockets at the Pickpocket's Hanging," American Law and Economics Review, Oxford University Press, vol. 4(2), pages 295-313.
  4. J. Williams & Rosalie Liccardo Pacula & Frank J. Chaloupka & Henry Wechsler, 2004. "Alcohol and marijuana use among college students: economic complements or substitutes?," Health Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 13(9), pages 825-843.
  5. James G. March & Zur Shapira, 1987. "Managerial Perspectives on Risk and Risk Taking," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 33(11), pages 1404-1418, November.
  6. Pacula, Rosalie Liccardo, 1998. "Does increasing the beer tax reduce marijuana consumption?," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 17(5), pages 557-585, October.
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