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Forum Health Econ Policy. 2019 Oct 16. pii: /j/fhep.ahead-of-print/fhep-2019-0002/fhep-2019-0002.xml. doi: 10.1515/fhep-2019-0002. [Epub ahead of print]

The Impact of Medical Marijuana Laws and Dispensaries on Self-Reported Health.

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University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA, USA.
The Wharton School, Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics, and the Perelman School of Medicine, 308 Colonial Penn Center, 3641 Locust Walk, Philadelphia, PA 19104-6218, USA.


Growing evidence suggests that medical marijuana laws have harm reduction effects across a variety of outcomes related to risky health behaviors. This study investigates the impact of medical marijuana laws on self-reported health using data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System from 1993 to 2013. In our analyses we separately identify the effect of a medical marijuana law and the impact of subsequent active and legally protected dispensaries. Our main results show surprisingly limited improvements in self-reported health after the legalization of medical marijuana and legally protected dispensaries. Subsample analyses reveal strong improvements in health among non-white individuals, those reporting chronic pain, and those with a high school degree, driven predominately by whether or not the state had active and legally protected dispensaries. We also complement the analysis by evaluating the impact on risky health behaviors and find that the aforementioned demographic groups experience large reductions in alcohol consumption after the implementation of a medical marijuana law.


Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System; marijuana dispensaries; medical marijuana; self-reported health


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