The Economic Impact of Government Regulations on Marijuana and Immigration

Date of Award

May 2020

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Gary V. Engelhardt

Second Advisor

Jeffrey D. Kubik

Subject Categories

Social and Behavioral Sciences


This thesis is a collection of three empirical essays in public and labor economics. The first two chapters study the economic impact of government regulations on marijuana in the United States. As of 2019, nearly one in four Americans reside in a state where recreational marijuana is available. The first chapter examines the impact of recreational marijuana sales legalization on workplace injuries. Using restricted-use Workers' Compensation claims as a proxy for injuries, I exploit variation in the county level implementation of recreational marijuana law in Oregon. Local governments could implement bans if less than 45% of voters in their jurisdiction voted in favor of recreational marijuana sales legalization. In order to identify this casual impact, I utilize several program evaluation techniques. My estimates suggest the workplace injury rate is approximately 5%-20% higher due to legalization. It also indicates that sales legalization increases work injury costs roughly by $7 to $34 million (or $5 to $24 per capita) per year. Overall, my results suggest recreational marijuana sales legalization may come at the expense of workplace injury.

The second chapter studies the causal effect of recreational marijuana dispensaries on local crime using a natural experiment from Washington State. Many North American jurisdictions have legalized the operation of recreational marijuana dispensaries. A common concern regarding dispensaries is that they may contribute to local crime. Identifying the effect of dispensaries on crime has been confounded by the spatial endogeneity of dispensary locations. We analyze dispensaries and crime in Pierce County, Washington. Washington allocated dispensary licenses through a lottery, providing a natural experiment to estimate the causal effect of dispensaries on crime. We combine lottery data with detailed geocoded crime data. Results indicate that the presence of a dispensary increases total crimes around the dispensary. We also find the increase in crime is strongest for property and violent crimes, while dispensary decreases drug related crime.

The third chapter makes progress by analyzing the labor market effects of temporary legalization on both legalized immigrants and natives. The empirical analysis relies on the biggest immigration policy over 25 years in the United States, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which provides temporarily relief from deportation and grant work authorization to eligible undocumented immigrants. Using the American Community Survey and a difference-in-differences approach, I find DACA increases the likelihood of working by 5.2 percent points on average for DACA-eligible than -ineligible population, which is consistent with literature findings. In addition, I find exposure to DACA-eligible immigrants pushes natives out of the unemployment. My results also suggest DACA has null income effect on natives.


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