142nd APHA Annual Meeting and Exposition

Annual Meeting Recordings are now available for purchase

Methodological Considerations when Comparing the Effects and Impact of Marijuana Laws across States

142nd APHA Annual Meeting and Exposition (November 15 - November 19, 2014): http://www.apha.org/events-and-meetings/annual
Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Janet Wiersema, MPH , School of Public Health, City University of New York, Brooklyn, NY
Daliah Heller, PhD, MPH , Drug and Alcohol Policy Research, Brooklyn, NY
Issues:  Changes to state-level marijuana laws have increased considerably over the past decade yet little is known as to whether such laws have an impact on marijuana use. To date, studies have investigated whether differences or changes in decriminalization or medical marijuana laws result in changes in use, however this research is inconclusive and results are often mixed.

Description: There are several potential reasons why studies examining state marijuana laws and their impact on use are inconclusive, such as the variability of state marijuana laws, study design, and measurement considerations.

Lessons Learned: A key issue when investigating whether differences or changes in state marijuana laws impact use is the variability of state laws. Possessing a small amount of marijuana in one state with “decriminalization” laws may lead to no penalties or fines (e.g., Alaska), while in another, it may lead to being charged with a misdemeanor and being fined up to $650 (e.g., Oregon). Examining laws in a dichotomous manner (e.g., criminalization vs. decriminalization) does not adequately capture such differences. Additionally, study design and measurement issues such as temporal sequencing, length of study, period effects, cohort effects, and age effects are important considerations. Finally, confounding variables affecting community- or state-level norms, use of self-report data, differing enforcement practices, and other policy considerations (e.g., stop and frisk) must be taken into account.

Recommendations:  Researchers comparing state-level marijuana use rates based on differing or changing marijuana laws must consider many factors such as variability in laws, temporality, measurement, and study design.

Learning Areas:

Conduct evaluation related to programs, research, and other areas of practice
Public health or related public policy
Public health or related research

Learning Objectives:
Identify and describe research, measurement, and analysis considerations when investigating state-level marijuana policy’s impact on use. Discuss recommendations to address research, measurement, and analysis considerations in future research.

Keyword(s): Policy/Policy Development, Evaluation

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have nearly 20 years of research and evaluation experience involving quantitative and qualitative studies related to substance abuse prevention and treatment, drug policy, and other related topics. I have substantial expertise in systems evaluation, program monitoring, and program evaluation related to these topics. I have prepared reports for federal and state government agencies, am currently a DPH student, and am an experienced presenter.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.

Back to: 4179.0: Marijuana and Other Issues