Does liberalizing cannabis laws increase cannabis use?

J Health Econ. 2014 Jul:36:20-32. doi: 10.1016/j.jhealeco.2014.03.006. Epub 2014 Mar 28.


A key question in the ongoing policy debate over cannabis' legal status is whether liberalizing cannabis laws leads to an increase in cannabis use. This paper provides new evidence on the impact of a specific type of liberalization, decriminalization, on initiation into cannabis use. Our identification strategy exploits variation in the timing of cannabis policy reforms and our estimation framework marries a difference-in-difference approach with a discrete time duration model. Our results reveal evidence of both heterogeneity and dynamics in the response of cannabis uptake to decriminalization. Overall, we find that the impact of decriminalization is concentrated amongst minors, who have a higher rate of uptake in the first five years following its introduction.

Keywords: Cannabis initiation; Decriminalization; Hazard rate; Natural experiment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Distribution
  • Age of Onset
  • Australia / epidemiology
  • Criminal Law / trends
  • Drug Users / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Drug Users / statistics & numerical data
  • Educational Status
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Legislation, Drug*
  • Male
  • Marijuana Abuse / epidemiology*
  • Marijuana Smoking / epidemiology
  • Marijuana Smoking / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Marijuana Smoking / trends
  • Public Policy / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Sex Distribution
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Young Adult