Medical marijuana is a potentially beneficial substance that has been quickly gaining nationwide support over the past 20 years. Since California first adopted medical marijuana legislation, 28 states and Washington D.C. have passed similar medical marijuana legislation. Marijuana may be associated as a compliment or a substitute for other health related risky behaviors, leading to possible increases or decreases in tobacco use. The potential impact of long-term legalization of medical and recreational marijuana on greater cigarette co-use in adults is something that must be taken into account. This paper investigates whether the presence of medical marijuana legislation affects individual’s youth smoking behavior, in order to understand the behavioral and public health implications/consequences of marijuana legalization.
The first paper to study this topic, examines whether medical marijuana laws (MMLs) have affected the trajectory of a decades long decline in adult tobacco use in the United States. Existing evidence suggests that marijuana and tobacco may be either complementary goods or substitutes (Choi et al. 2017). Choi examines data from the National Survey of Drug Use and Health, the CDC Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey (BRFSS), and the Current Population Survey Tobacco Use Supplement (CPS-TUS). The authors exploit this data using a difference-in-differences model to assess the effect of MMLs on tobacco use. With this data, the authors find no evidence that MMLs increase tobacco use, rather they find that MMLs enacted between the early 1990’s and 2015 are associated with a 0.4 to 0.7 percentage point reduction in adult tobacco consumption.
My research uses NLSY data to further explore whether the passage of state medical marijuana laws will lead to an increase or decrease in tobacco consumption for youth and young adults. NLSY provides detailed information on tobacco consumption and demographic information for each respondent. I have collected data on state-level smoking and marijuana policies. By merging state-level policies with NLSY data, I examine the effect of this public policy on people’s smoking behaviors and provide more insights for the debate on the legalization of marijuana. I utilize the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1997 (NLSY97) restricted use data set with state identifiers from the year 1997-98 to 2015-16. The NLSY97 data set consists of a nationally representative sample of approximately 9,000 youths who were 12 to 16 years old as of December 31, 1996. Round one of the survey took place in 1997. In that round both eligible youth and one of that youth’s parents received an hour-long interview. The ongoing cohort has been surveyed 17 times to date and is now interviewed biennially. I use a longitudinal data set in order to follow each individual’s tobacco consumption behavior changes due to a change in medical marijuana policy in the sate of residence of the respondent. The use of longitudinal data better fits the theoretical model of rational addiction because one can estimate models of an individual’s current consumption decision that capture the net effect of medical marijuana policy changes. My contribution to the literature includes a focus on the effect of medical marijuana legislation on youth smoking initiation decisions. No paper has examined the effect of MML on youth smoking outcomes, therefore it is essential to know the potential unintended policy effects of medical marijuana legislation.