Marijuana Decriminalization: What Does it Mean in the United States?

35 Pages Posted: 16 May 2003 Last revised: 1 Nov 2010

See all articles by Rosalie Liccardo Pacula

Rosalie Liccardo Pacula

Health Economics, Finance and Organization, RAND Corporation; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Jamie F. Chriqui

The MayaTech Corporation

Joanna King

The MayaTech Corporation

Date Written: May 2003

Abstract

It is well known in the drug policy field that eleven states reduced the criminal sanctions associated with possession of small amounts of marijuana. In this paper we review the eleven original decriminalization statutes, documenting key dimensions of these laws and identifying their common denominator. We then examine state laws in effect as of December 31, 1999, along the same key dimensions and show that it is impossible to uniquely identify the so-called decriminalized states. We show the extent to which non-decriminalized states have also reduced penalties associated with possession of small amounts of marijuana as early as 1989, calling into question the interpretation of studies evaluating this policy during the past decade. We conclude by showing that the inclusion of legal dimensions of the policy does not diminish the association identified between decriminalization and recent use, raising questions about how researchers should interpret such findings.

Suggested Citation

Pacula, Rosalie Liccardo and Chriqui, Jamie F. and King, Joanna, Marijuana Decriminalization: What Does it Mean in the United States? (May 2003). NBER Working Paper No. w9690. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=406062

Rosalie Liccardo Pacula (Contact Author)

Health Economics, Finance and Organization, RAND Corporation ( email )

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Jamie F. Chriqui

The MayaTech Corporation ( email )

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Joanna King

The MayaTech Corporation ( email )

1100 Wayne Avenue, Suite 900
Silver Spring, MD 20910
United States

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