Do Medical Marijuana Laws Increase Hard Drug Use?
60 Pages Posted: 22 Jun 2013 Last revised: 10 May 2016
Date Written: September 15, 2014
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: Suggested Citation