Do Medical Marijuana Laws Increase Hard Drug Use?

60 Pages Posted: 22 Jun 2013 Last revised: 10 May 2016

See all articles by Yu-Wei Luke Chu

Yu-Wei Luke Chu

Victoria University of Wellington - School of Economics & Finance

Date Written: September 15, 2014

Abstract

Medical marijuana laws generate significant debate regarding drug policy. For instance, if marijuana is a complement to hard drugs, then these laws would increase the usage not only of marijuana but also of hard drugs. In this paper I study empirically the effects of medical marijuana laws by analyzing data on drug arrests and treatment admissions. I find that medical marijuana laws increase these proxies for marijuana consumption by around 10-15 percent. However, there is no evidence that cocaine and heroin usage increases. From the arrest data, the estimates indicate a 0-15 percent decrease in possession arrests for cocaine and heroin combined. From the treatment data, the estimates show a 20 percent decrease in admissions for heroin-related treatment, although there is no significant effect for cocaine-related treatment. These results suggest that marijuana may be a substitute for heroin, but it is not strongly correlated with cocaine.

Keywords: cocaine, heroin, illegal drug use, marijuana, medical marijuana laws

JEL Classification: I10, I18, H75, K42

Suggested Citation

Chu, Yu-Wei Luke, Do Medical Marijuana Laws Increase Hard Drug Use? (September 15, 2014). Journal of Law and Economics, Vol. 58, No. 2, 2015. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2283525 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2283525

Yu-Wei Luke Chu (Contact Author)

Victoria University of Wellington - School of Economics & Finance ( email )

P.O. Box 600
Wellington 6001
New Zealand
04 463 6855 (Phone)

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