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Decriminalization and Initiation into Cannabis Use


  • Anne Line Bretteville-Jensen
  • Jenny Williams


The central question faced by policy makers contemplating decriminalization of cannabis is whether such a move will lead to an increase in use, and if so, by whom and by how much. We address this question by investigating the impact of decriminalization on the decision to start using cannabis. Our analysis is based on individual level information from a general population in Australia. Australia provides an interesting case study for examining this issue because it has decriminalized the use of cannabis in half of its states and territories. In modeling cannabis uptake, we use a discrete-time hazard model and account for unobserved diferences between states that decriminalize and those that do not. We end that decriminalizing cannabis shifts the age distribution of uptake towards younger age groups while leaving the proportion of those who will start using cannabis unchanged. This suggests that decriminalization effects when individuals start using cannabis, rather than whether or not they start.

Suggested Citation

  • Anne Line Bretteville-Jensen & Jenny Williams, 2011. "Decriminalization and Initiation into Cannabis Use," Department of Economics - Working Papers Series 1130, The University of Melbourne.
  • Handle: RePEc:mlb:wpaper:1130

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. DiNardo, John & Lemieux, Thomas, 2001. "Alcohol, marijuana, and American youth: the unintended consequences of government regulation," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 20(6), pages 991-1010, November.
    2. Frank J. Chaloupka & Michael Grossman & Warren K. Bickel & Henry Saffer, 1999. "The Economic Analysis of Substance Use and Abuse: An Integration of Econometrics and Behavioral Economic Research," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number chal99-1, January.
    3. Saffer, Henry & Chaloupka, Frank, 1999. "The Demand for Illicit Drugs," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 37(3), pages 401-411, July.
    4. van Ours, Jan C. & Williams, Jenny, 2009. "Why parents worry: Initiation into cannabis use by youth and their educational attainment," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 28(1), pages 132-142, January.
    5. Stephen Pudney, 2010. "Drugs policy: what should we do about cannabis?," Economic Policy, CEPR;CES;MSH, vol. 25, pages 165-211, January.
    6. Frank J. Chaloupka & Michael Grossman & Warren K. Bickel & Henry Saffer, 1999. "Introduction to "The Economic Analysis of Substance Use and Abuse: An Integration of Econometrics and Behavioral Economic Research"," NBER Chapters,in: The Economic Analysis of Substance Use and Abuse: An Integration of Econometrics and Behavioral Economic Research, pages 1-14 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. Farrelly, Matthew C. & Bray, Jeremy W. & Zarkin, Gary A. & Wendling, Brett W., 2001. "The joint demand for cigarettes and marijuana: evidence from the National Household Surveys on Drug Abuse," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 20(1), pages 51-68, January.
    8. Damrongplasit, Kannika & Hsiao, Cheng & Zhao, Xueyan, 2010. "Decriminalization and Marijuana Smoking Prevalence: Evidence From Australia," Journal of Business & Economic Statistics, American Statistical Association, vol. 28(3), pages 344-356.
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    Cited by:

    1. Williams, J. & van Ours, J.C. & Grossmann, M., 2011. "Why Do Some People Want to Legalize Cannabis Use?," Discussion Paper 2011-007, Tilburg University, Center for Economic Research.

    More about this item


    Cannabis use; decriminalization; cannabis policy;

    JEL classification:

    • C41 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Econometric and Statistical Methods: Special Topics - - - Duration Analysis; Optimal Timing Strategies
    • I10 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - General
    • I18 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Government Policy; Regulation; Public Health


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