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Marijuana Decriminalization: What does it mean in the United States?

Author

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  • Rosalie Liccardo Pacula
  • Jamie F. Chriqui
  • Joanna King

Abstract

It is well known in the drug policy field that eleven states reduced the criminal sanctions associated with possession of small amounts of marijuana. In this paper we review the eleven original decriminalization statutes, documenting key dimensions of these laws and identifying their common denominator. We then examine state laws in effect as of December 31, 1999, along the same key dimensions and show that it is impossible to uniquely identify the so-called decriminalized states. We show the extent to which non-decriminalized states have also reduced penalties associated with possession of small amounts of marijuana as early as 1989, calling into question the interpretation of studies evaluating this policy during the past decade. We conclude by showing that the inclusion of legal dimensions of the policy does not diminish the association identified between decriminalization and recent use, raising questions about how researchers should interpret such findings.

Suggested Citation

  • Rosalie Liccardo Pacula & Jamie F. Chriqui & Joanna King, 2003. "Marijuana Decriminalization: What does it mean in the United States?," NBER Working Papers 9690, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:9690
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Patrick M. O'Malley & Michael Grossman & Frank J. Chaloupka, 2001. "Marijuana and Youth," NBER Chapters,in: Risky Behavior among Youths: An Economic Analysis, pages 271-326 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
      • R. L. Pacula & M. Grossman & F. J. Chaloupka & P. M. O'Malley & L. Johnston & M. C. Farrelly, 2000. "Marijuana and Youth," NBER Working Papers 7703, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Saffer, Henry & Chaloupka, Frank, 1999. "The Demand for Illicit Drugs," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 37(3), pages 401-411, July.
    3. 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.
    4. Frank J. Chaloupka & Michael Grossman & John A. Tauras, 1999. "The Demand for Cocaine and Marijuana by Youth," NBER Chapters,in: The Economic Analysis of Substance Use and Abuse: An Integration of Econometrics and Behavioral Economic Research, pages 133-156 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Frank J. Chaloupka & Rosalie Liccardo Pacula & Matthew C. Farrelly & Lloyd D. Johnston & Patrick M. O'Malley, 1999. "Do Higher Cigarette Prices Encourage Youth to Use Marijuana?," NBER Working Papers 6939, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Henry Saffer & Frank J. Chaloupka, 1999. "Demographic Differentials in the Demand for Alcohol and Illicit Drugs," NBER Chapters,in: The Economic Analysis of Substance Use and Abuse: An Integration of Econometrics and Behavioral Economic Research, pages 187-212 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. Pacula, Rosalie Liccardo, 1998. "Does increasing the beer tax reduce marijuana consumption?," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 17(5), pages 557-585, October.
    8. 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.
    9. 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.
    10. Matthew C. Farrelly & Jeremy W. Bray & Gary A. Zarkin & Brett W. Wendling & Rosalie Liccardo Pacula, 1999. "The Effects of Prices and Policies on the Demand for Marijuana: Evidence from the National Household Surveys on Drug Abuse," NBER Working Papers 6940, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    11. MacCoun,Robert J. & Reuter,Peter, 2001. "Drug War Heresies," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521799973.
    12. 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.
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Huber III Arthur & Newman Rebecca & LaFave Daniel, 2016. "Cannabis Control and Crime: Medicinal Use, Depenalization and the War on Drugs," The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 16(4), pages 1-35, October.
    2. Jérôme Adda & Brendon McConnell & Imran Rasul, 2014. "Crime and the Depenalization of Cannabis Possession: Evidence from a Policing Experiment," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 122(5), pages 1130-1202.
    3. Pinka Chatterji, 2006. "Illicit drug use and educational attainment," Health Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 15(5), pages 489-511.
    4. Johanna Catherine Maclean & Ioana Popovici & Elisheva Stern, 2015. "Health Insurance Expansions and Provider Behavior: Evidence from Substance Use Disorder Providers," DETU Working Papers 1510, Department of Economics, Temple University.
    5. repec:wsi:serxxx:v:54:y:2009:i:04:n:s0217590809003483 is not listed on IDEAS
    6. Adam J. Davis & Mark W. Nichols, 2013. "The Price Elasticity of Marijuana Demand," Working Papers 13-004, University of Nevada, Reno, Department of Economics;University of Nevada, Reno , Department of Resource Economics.
    7. Niko de Silva & Benno Torgler, 2011. "Smoke Signals and Mixed Messages: Medical Marijuana & Drug Policy Signalling Effects," CREMA Working Paper Series 2011-18, Center for Research in Economics, Management and the Arts (CREMA).
    8. Chu, Yu-Wei Luke, 2014. "The effects of medical marijuana laws on illegal marijuana use," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 38(C), pages 43-61.
    9. Clements, Kenneth W. & Daryal, Mert, 2005. "Exogenous shocks and related goods: Drinking and the legalisation of marijuana," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 89(1), pages 101-106, October.
    10. John J. Donohue III & Benjamin Ewing & David Pelopquin, 2010. "Rethinking America's Illegal Drug Policy," NBER Chapters,in: Controlling Crime: Strategies and Tradeoffs, pages 215-281 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • I1 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health
    • K4 - Law and Economics - - Legal Procedure, the Legal System, and Illegal Behavior

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