‘High’ Achievers? Cannabis Access and Academic Performance

Tinbergen Institute Discussion Paper 2016-101/V

54 Pages Posted: 18 Nov 2016

See all articles by Olivier Marie

Olivier Marie

Erasmus University Rotterdam (EUR) - Erasmus School of Economics (ESE)

Ulf Zoelitz

Maastricht University

Date Written: November 18, 2016


This paper investigates how legal cannabis access affects student performance. Identification comes from an exceptional policy introduced in the city of Maastricht in the Netherlands that discriminated access via licensed cannabis shops based on an individual’s nationality. We apply a difference-in-difference approach using administrative panel data on course grades of local students enrolled at Maastricht University before and during the partial cannabis prohibition. We find that the academic performance of students who are no longer legally permitted to buy cannabis substantially increases. Grade improvements are driven by younger students and the effects are stronger for women and low performers. In line with how cannabis consumption affects cognitive functioning, we find that performance gains are larger for courses that require more numerical/mathematical skills. Our investigation of underlying channels using course evaluations suggests that performance gains are driven by an improved understanding of the material rather than changes in students’ study effort.

Keywords: marijuana, legalization, student performance

JEL Classification: I18, I20, K42

Suggested Citation

Marie, Olivier and Zoelitz, Ulf, ‘High’ Achievers? Cannabis Access and Academic Performance (November 18, 2016). Tinbergen Institute Discussion Paper 2016-101/V. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2871909

Olivier Marie (Contact Author)

Erasmus University Rotterdam (EUR) - Erasmus School of Economics (ESE) ( email )

P.O. Box 1738
3000 DR Rotterdam, NL 3062 PA

Ulf Zoelitz

Maastricht University ( email )

P.O. Box 616
Maastricht, 6200MD

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