Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



First Advisor

Younghwan Song




marijuana, drug-use, income, employment


Over the past two decades, marijuana has been the most widely used illicit drug by adolescents in the US. The drug continues to soar in popularity as both a recreational and medicinal drug despite mounting scientific research that marijuana consumption may impair cognitive function including deficits in learning, memory, motivation, and attention. Marijuana use has also been linked to exacerbation of depression and anxiety symptoms. Though federal laws still classify marijuana as an illegal substance, recent state-level legislation has sparked national debate over its legal status. In fact, 23 states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana for medical use and four—Colorado, Washington, Alaska, and Oregon-have legalized marijuana for recreational use. This paper investigates the impact that marijuana legalization has on income, education, and depression using cross-sectional and time-series data from the 1996-2013 (not including 2002) Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System Survey and 1995-2013 Current Population Survey. The regressions indicated that marijuana legalization had an effect on several of the outcome variables. Those living in states that permitted marijuana dispensaries had wage premiums and higher self-employment, but males had higher high school dropout rates and females had more depressive days. States that permitted home cultivation were also affected, with increases in depressive days and self-employment for both genders. Finally, states that legalized marijuana for recreational use showed wage penalties for females and decreases in self-employment for both genders. However, there was no evidence that marijuana legalization had an effect on unemployment.