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

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

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    File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w9690.pdf
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    Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 9690.

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    Date of creation: May 2003
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    Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:9690
    Note: HE
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    1. 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.
    2. 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.
    3. 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.
    4. Henry Saffer & Frank Chaloupka, 1998. "Demographic Differentials in the Demand for Alcohol and Illicit Drugs," NBER Working Papers 6432, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. 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.
    6. 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.
      • 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.
    7. Saffer, Henry & Chaloupka, Frank, 1999. "The Demand for Illicit Drugs," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 37(3), pages 401-11, July.
    8. Pacula, Rosalie Liccardo, 1998. "Does increasing the beer tax reduce marijuana consumption?," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 17(5), pages 557-585, October.
    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. 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.
    11. 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.
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