The effects of medical marijuana laws on illegal marijuana use

J Health Econ. 2014 Dec;38:43-61. doi: 10.1016/j.jhealeco.2014.07.003. Epub 2014 Aug 4.


More and more states have passed laws that allow individuals to use marijuana for medical purposes. There is an ongoing, heated policy debate over whether these laws have increased marijuana use among non-patients. In this paper, I address that question empirically by studying marijuana possession arrests in cities from 1988 to 2008. I estimate fixed effects models with city-specific time trends that can condition on unobserved heterogeneities across cities in both their levels and trends. I find that these laws increase marijuana arrests among adult males by about 15-20%. These results are further validated by findings from data on treatment admissions to rehabilitation facilities: marijuana treatments among adult males increased by 10-20% after the passage of medical marijuana laws.

Keywords: Drug arrest; Illegal drug use; Marijuana; Marijuna abuse; Medical marijuana; Medical marijuana laws; Substance treatment.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Algorithms
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Law Enforcement*
  • Male
  • Marijuana Abuse
  • Marijuana Smoking / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Medical Marijuana*
  • United States
  • Young Adult


  • Medical Marijuana