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The Effects of Marijuana Liberalizations: Evidence from Monitoring the Future

Listed author(s):
  • Angela K. Dills
  • Sietse Goffard
  • Jeffrey Miron

By the end of 2016, 28 states had liberalized their marijuana laws: by decriminalizing possession, by legalizing for medical purposes, or by legalizing more broadly. More states are considering such policy changes even while supporters and opponents continue to debate their impacts. Yet evidence on these liberalizations remains scarce, in part due to data limitations. We use data from Monitoring the Future’s annual surveys of high school seniors to evaluate the impact of marijuana liberalizations on marijuana use, other substance use, alcohol consumption, attitudes surrounding substance use, youth health outcomes, crime rates, and traffic accidents. These data have several advantages over those used in prior analyses. We find that marijuana liberalizations have had minimal impact on the examined outcomes. Notably, many of the outcomes predicted by critics of liberalizations, such as increases in youth drug use and youth criminal behavior, have failed to materialize in the wake of marijuana liberalizations.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 23779.

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Date of creation: Sep 2017
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:23779
Note: HE LE PE
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  1. D. Mark Anderson & Daniel I. Rees, 2014. "The Legalization of Recreational Marijuana: How Likely Is the Worst‐Case Scenario?," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 33(1), pages 221-232, 01.
  2. D. Mark Anderson & Benjamin Hansen & Daniel I. Rees, 2013. "Medical Marijuana Laws, Traffic Fatalities, and Alcohol Consumption," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 56(2), pages 333-369.
  3. MacCoun Robert & Pacula Rosalie Liccardo & Chriqui Jamie & Harris Katherine & Reuter Peter, 2009. "Do Citizens Know Whether Their State Has Decriminalized Marijuana? Assessing the Perceptual Component of Deterrence Theory," Review of Law & Economics, De Gruyter, vol. 5(1), pages 347-371, June.
  4. Rosalie Liccardo Pacula & David Powell & Paul Heaton & Eric L. Sevigny, 2013. "Assessing the Effects of Medical Marijuana Laws on Marijuana and Alcohol Use: The Devil is in the Details," NBER Working Papers 19302, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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