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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
Competitive Discretionary
Congressional District
Funding First Awarded
Total funding (to date)

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

Since 1996, 37 states have passed statutes legalizing marijuana for medical and/or recreational use, 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 justice system processing, public safety, and public health 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 the effects of marijuana legalization from primary and secondary data sources that are both local and national in scope and at both the individual and aggregate level. We will pursue answers to two broad research questions: (1) How have liberalized marijuana laws impacted justice system processing, public safety, and public health outcomes, and (2) have the structure, operations, and facilitation of marijuana trafficking enterprises changed in response to changing laws and enforcement strategies? Secondary criminal justice and public health data were gathered from federal, state, and local sources. Original data collection includes coding Pre-Sentence Investigation Reports (PSRs) and interviewing criminal justice stakeholders to help interpret findings and assist in deriving lessons and study products of greatest practical use to them. Time-series data from such sources are being 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 conferences; policy briefs suitable for non-technical audiences; and a website hosted by Abt Associates that ties the dissemination products and subsequent updates together.

Date Created: September 12, 2016