ImpacTeen Research Papers
Marijuana Decriminalization: What does it Mean in the United States?
Pacula RL, Chriqui JF, King J.
It is well known that eleven states reduced the criminal sanctions associated with possession of small amounts of marijuana. In this paper we review the eleven original decriminalization statutes, documenting key dimensions of these laws and identifying their common denominator. We then examine state laws in effect as of December 31, 1999, along the same key dimensions and show that it is impossible to uniquely identify these 11 states. Non-decriminalized states have also reduced penalties associated with possession of small amounts of marijuana as early as 1989, calling into question the interpretation of studies evaluating this policy during the past decade. We conclude by showing that the inclusion of legal dimensions of the policy does not diminish the association identified between decriminalization and recent use.
Research Paper (PDF – 205KB)