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Developing Methods for Assessing Outcomes of Law and Policy on Drug Trafficking Offenders, Organizations, and Criminal Justice Responses

Award Information

Award #
Funding Category
Congressional District
Funding First Awarded
Total funding (to date)

Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2016, $999,887)

Since 1996, 25 states have passed statutes legalizing or decriminalizing marijuana, while it has remained illegal under federal law. Jurisdictional and temporal variation in law creates a complex environment and substantial challenges for police and prosecutors charged with enforcement, and little is known about the outcomes of evolving laws and policies. The proposed study is directly responsive to NIJ’s stated objectives, and provides a rare opportunity to gather and analyze richly detailed data on drug trafficking at both individual and organizational levels, from sources that are national in scope, produce
large and representative samples, and support time series designs. We will pursue answers to two broad research questions: (1) How have liberalized marijuana laws impacted law enforcement activities, and (2)
have the structure, operations, and facilitation of marijuana trafficking enterprises changed in response to changing laws and enforcement strategies? Secondary data will be gathered on federal investigations, prosecutions, convictions, sentencing, and corrections from the Federal Justice Statistics Program, and state-level sources will include the National Corrections Reporting Program and the Uniform Crime Reporting program. Original data collection includes coding Pre-Sentence Investigation Reports (PSRs) and interviewing 120 convicted drug
traffickers to learn about organization structure, operations, strategies, and facilitation, and interviewing 40 prosecutors and investigators to help interpret findings and assist in deriving lessons and study products of greatest practical use to them. Time-series data from such sources will be analyzed with standard, advanced quasi-experimental
techniques. Each source has a sufficiently long time series to provide statistical power and to allow for sometimes gradual implementation. The design exploits geographic and temporal variation in the
implementation of marijuana law, using a difference-in-differences design that compares outcomes in states which implemented the policies with states that did not, before and after implementation. These models employ within-state variation over time to identify policy impacts, and incorporate pre-existing trends in outcomes.
The priority of this study is providing information to practitioners and policymakers for whom it is directly relevant. Dissemination materials designed for criminal justice practitioners, policymakers, and researchers will be disseminated through many channels, including peer-reviewed journal article
manuscripts; presentations via webinars and conferences; policy briefs suitable for non-technical audiences; a simulation tool supporting estimations based on changing policy levers for each of the 50 states; and a website hosted by Abt Associates that ties the dissemination products and subsequent updates together. ca/ncf

Date Created: September 12, 2016