Date of Award


Document Type

Union College Only

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



First Advisor

Jia Gao




Marijuana, Legalization, Cigarettes, Tobacco, Longitudinal, Initiation, Cessation


Over the past twenty years, marijuana has been the most widely accessible and widely used illicit drug in the United States of America. Marijuana is often labeled a gateway drug and is illegal to possess, use, or cultivate under federal law. However, movements of medical marijuana advocates see the drug as a potentially beneficial substance used to treat a variety of ailments including multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s Disease, and seizures. A strong push in support of legalizing marijuana for medicinal use has quickly gained nationwide traction. Since California first adopted medical marijuana legislation in 1996, twenty-eight states and Washington D.C. have passed similar medical marijuana legislation. Marijuana may be associated as a compliment or a substitute for other health related risky behaviors, leading to possible increases or decreases in tobacco use. The potential impact of long-term legalization of medical and recreational marijuana on greater cigarette co-use in adults is something that must be taken into account. This paper investigates the effect of medical marijuana legalization on individuals’ tobacco smoking participation, initiation, and cessation rates using the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1997 (NLSY97) data set from 1997 to 2015.

The results I find indicate that those respondents living in states that legalized medical marijuana are associated with an increase in regular cigarette use and regular marijuana use. However, there is no evidence to show medical marijuana legalization had an effect on cigarette use initiation and cessation. These findings suggest potential negative effects of medical marijuana legalization on smoking outcomes. The negative implications of these effects are far reaching across the U.S. healthcare system.