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Do medical marijuana laws increase hard drug use?

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  • Chu, Yu-Wei Luke

Abstract

Medical marijuana laws generate significant policy debates regarding drug policy. In particular, if marijuana is a complement or a gateway drug to hard drugs, these laws would increase not only the usage of marijuana but hard drugs such as cocaine and heroin. In this paper, I empirically study the relationships between marijuana and cocaine or heroin by analyzing data on drug possession arrests and rehabilitation treatment admissions. I find that medical marijuana laws increase marijuana arrests and treatments by 10–20%. However, there is no evidence that cocaine and heroin usage increases after the passage of medical marijuana laws. In fact, the estimates on cocaine and heroin arrests or treatments are uniformly negative. From the arrest data, the estimates indicate a 0–20% decrease in possession arrests for cocaine and heroin combined. From the treatment data, the estimates show a 20% decrease in heroin treatments but no significant effect on cocaine treatments. These results suggest that marijuana could be a substitute for heroin.

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  • Chu, Yu-Wei Luke, 2014. "Do medical marijuana laws increase hard drug use?," Working Paper Series 3195, Victoria University of Wellington, School of Economics and Finance.
  • Handle: RePEc:vuw:vuwecf:3195
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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. Johanna Catherine Maclean & Keshar M. Ghimire & Lauren Hersch Nicholas, 2017. "Marijuana legalization and disability claiming," NBER Working Papers 23862, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Christopher J. Ruhm, 2018. "Deaths of Despair or Drug Problems?," NBER Working Papers 24188, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Keshar M. Ghimire & Johanna Catherine Maclean, 2020. "Medical marijuana and workers' compensation claiming," Health Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 29(4), pages 419-434, April.
    5. Pohl, R. Vincent, 2018. "Time Trends Matter: The Case of Medical Cannabis Laws and Opioid Overdose Mortality," MPRA Paper 87237, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    6. Chu, Yu-Wei Luke & Townsend, Wilbur, 2019. "Joint culpability: The effects of medical marijuana laws on crime," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 159(C), pages 502-525.
    7. Christopher J. Ruhm, 2019. "Shackling the Identification Police?," Southern Economic Journal, John Wiley & Sons, vol. 85(4), pages 1016-1026, April.
    8. Wu, Guangzhen & Wen, Ming & Wilson, Fernando A., 2021. "Impact of recreational marijuana legalization on crime: Evidence from Oregon," Journal of Criminal Justice, Elsevier, vol. 72(C).
    9. Chu, Yu-Wei Luke, 2018. "What we still need to know about the impacts of medical marijuana laws in the United States?," Working Paper Series 7028, Victoria University of Wellington, School of Economics and Finance.
    10. Avinandan Chakraborty & Jacqueline Doremus & Sarah Stith, 2020. "The Effects of Recreational Cannabis Access on the Labor Market: Evidence from Colorado," Working Papers 2001, California Polytechnic State University, Department of Economics.
    11. Anderson, D. Mark & Rees, Daniel I., 2021. "The Public Health Effects of Legalizing Marijuana," IZA Discussion Papers 14292, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    12. Christopher A. Ambrose & Benjamin W. Cowan & Robert E. Rosenman, 2021. "Geographical access to recreational marijuana," Contemporary Economic Policy, Western Economic Association International, vol. 39(4), pages 778-807, October.
    13. Garin, Julio & Pohl, R. Vincent & Smith, Rhet A., 2018. "The Effect of Medical Cannabis Dispensaries on Opioid and Heroin Overdose Mortality," MPRA Paper 89613, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    14. Gunadi, Christian, 2021. "Does Expanding Access to Cannabis Affect Traffic Crashes? County-Level Evidence from Recreational Marijuana Dispensary Sales in Colorado," GLO Discussion Paper Series 964, Global Labor Organization (GLO).
    15. Gregory Conyers & Ian Ayres, 2020. "A lottery test of the effect of dispensaries on emergency room visits in Arizona," Health Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 29(8), pages 854-864, August.
    16. David Beheshti, 2019. "Adverse health effects of abuse‐deterrent opioids: Evidence from the reformulation of OxyContin," Health Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 28(12), pages 1449-1461, December.
    17. Cervený, J. & van Ours, J.C. & Chomynova, Pavla & Mravcik, Viktor, 2015. "Cannabis Decriminalization and the Age of Onset of Cannabis Use," Discussion Paper 2015-007, Tilburg University, Center for Economic Research.
    18. Chu, Yu-Wei Luke & Gershenson, Seth, 2018. "High times: The effect of medical marijuana laws on student time use," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 66(C), pages 142-153.
    19. Petrova, Olga & Gray, Natallia, 2021. "The effects of medical marijuana laws on birth outcomes: Evidence from early adopting U.S. states," Economic Analysis and Policy, Elsevier, vol. 69(C), pages 68-82.
    20. Johanna Catherine Maclean & Lauren Hersch Nicholas & Keshar M. Ghimire, 2017. "The Impact of State Medical Marijuana Laws on Social Security Disability Insurance and Workers' Compensation Benefit Claiming," Working Papers id:12111, eSocialSciences.
    21. Hunt, Priscillia E & Pacula, Rosalie Liccardo & Weinberger, Gabriel, 2018. "High on Crime? Exploring the Effects of Marijuana Dispensary Laws on Crime in California Counties," IZA Discussion Papers 11567, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    22. McMichael, Benjamin J. & Van Horn, R. Lawrence & Viscusi, W. Kip, 2020. "The impact of cannabis access laws on opioid prescribing," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 69(C).
    23. Zhuang Hao & Benjamin Cowan, 2017. "The Cross-Border Spillover Effects of Recreational Marijuana Legalization," NBER Working Papers 23426, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    24. Gal Wettstein, 2019. "Health insurance and opioid deaths: Evidence from the Affordable Care Act young adult provision," Health Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 28(5), pages 666-677, May.
    25. Ruhm, Christopher J., 2019. "Drivers of the fatal drug epidemic," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 64(C), pages 25-42.

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    Keywords

    Cocaine; Heroin; Illegal drug use; Marijuana; Medical marijuana laws;
    All these keywords.

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