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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.

Suggested Citation

  • 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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    File URL: http://researcharchive.vuw.ac.nz/handle/10063/3195
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. D. Mark Anderson & Daniel I. Rees, 2014. "The Role of Dispensaries: The Devil is in the Details," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 33(1), pages 235-240, January.
    2. Hans Melberg & Andrew Jones & Anne Bretteville-Jensen, 2010. "Is cannabis a gateway to hard drugs?," Empirical Economics, Springer, vol. 38(3), pages 583-603, June.
    3. Bretteville-Jensen Anne L & Melberg Hans O & Jones Andrew M, 2008. "Sequential Patterns of Drug Use Initiation - Can We Believe In the Gateway Theory?," The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 8(2), pages 1-31, January.
    4. 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.
    5. Bound, John & Solon, Gary, 1999. "Double trouble: on the value of twins-based estimation of the return to schooling," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 18(2), pages 169-182, April.
    6. 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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    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. "The Effect of State Medical Marijuana Laws on Social Security Disability Insurance and Workers' Compensation 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. 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.
    5. Zhuang Hao & Benjamin Cowan, 2017. "The Cross-Border Spillover Effects of Recreational Marijuana Legalization," NBER Working Papers 23426, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

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    Keywords

    Cocaine; Heroin; Illegal drug use; Marijuana; Medical marijuana laws;

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