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Thomas Library

Honors Thesis Archive

Author Benjamin W. Scott
Title Yes We Cannabis: Medical Marijuana Laws and the Economics of Crime
Department Economics
Advisors David Wishart, Adam Parker, and Lawrence Gwinn
Year 2009
Honors University Honors
Full Text
At the author's request, an electronic copy of this thesis is only available to on-campus users.
Abstract In 1968, Gary Becker published "Crime and Punishment: An Economic Approach," and pioneered approaching crime through economic analysis. Considering crime as an economic activity, he used marginal analysis and expected costs and benefits to model the factors determining the incidence of crime. Over the years, this model has been effectively applied to many of the major crimes present in American society. However, none of these studies have comprehensively considered illegal drug use and the specific issues it brings to the model, such as addiction and the private nature of the crime. In this paper, I address this lack of research by applying Becker's model to one illegal drug, marijuana. If the economic model were not applicable to illegal drugs, this would imply that drug policies must be considered separately from other crimes. By regressing past month marijuana use on pooled data for economic conditions, law enforcement levels, and the presence of a state-level medicinal marijuana law, I find that Becker's model effectively handles marijuana consumption. Thus, I conclude that marijuana use can be addressed similarly to other crimes.

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