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The Consequences of Legalizing Recreational Marijuana: Evidence from Colorado and Washington

NCJ Number
Ty Miller
Date Published
282 pages

This dissertation analyzes changes in measures of excessive drinking, crime, and DUI-related fatalities and arrests following the legalization of recreational marijuana in the states of Washington and Colorado.


The author of this dissertation analyzes the impacts of the legalization of recreational marijuana in the states of Washington and Colorado; specifically, the author discusses changes in measures of excessive drinking, crime, and Driving Under the Influence (DUI)-related fatalities and arrests. The author first examines the effects of legalized possession and use of marijuana in 2013, followed by the effects of opening recreational dispensaries in Colorado in 2014. The goal of the separate analyses was to identify any shock-effects that might be inherently tied to legalization of possession and use, or the opening of recreational dispensaries. The dissertation discusses and analyses the following topics: the history of marijuana policy in the U.S. and the political climate surrounding marijuana; methodology and data, including discussion of focal independent variables, comparison groups, and alcohol and crime data, as well as difference-in-differences and lagged effects; data and evidence surrounding excessive drinking behaviors and how they relate to marijuana use; data and evidence surrounding crime and potential impacts of marijuana legalization on crime rates; and data and evidence surrounding DUI fatalities and arrests. Results indicate that, in most of the analyses, there are no significant effects of either part of legalization on the outcome variables of interest, and the net effects of legalization appear to be null. The only significant effect was that policing of DUI appears to have increased following the legalization of possession and use, in both Washington and Colorado, in 2013. The implications of research findings for both sociological theory and policymaking are discussed in the concluding chapter.