Evaluating Responses to the Opioid Epidemic: The Role of Legal Variation and Complexity
(Crime, Justice, and Drugs)
Thursday, November 8, 2018: 1:45 PM-3:15 PM
Wilson A - Mezz Level (Marriott Wardman Park)
*Names in bold indicate Presenter
Panel Chairs: Lauren E Jones, The Ohio State University
Discussants: Rosalie Pacula, Pardee RAND Graduate School
As states have experimented with a wide range of policies to address the impact of the opioid crisis on public health, welfare, and safety, substantial differences exist even between apparently similar state laws. This variation poses a significant challenge to evaluating the impact of policy interventions on outcomes related to opioid use. Unless the specific rights and responsibilities created by laws are considered, it can be difficult to identify which policy interventions improve outcomes. Combining insights from law, economics, and policy analysis, the papers in this panel all take a different approach to creating measures that accurately represent the content and implementation of laws aimed at addressing the opioid crisis. The first paper engages in a detailed textual analysis of state laws facilitating medication-assisted treatment using methadone (MAT-M), in order evaluate the impact of the restrictiveness of MAT-M laws on opioid mortality. The second two papers consider the impact of state-level marijuana laws on opioid outcomes. As state marijuana laws vary tremendously in terms of the activities they allow and the protections they provide, these papers combine legal measures with alternative mechanisms for measuring access to marijuana within states that have legalized its use. The second paper combines administrative data on state-licensed marijuana outlets with data on state law to evaluate their impact on opioid related outcomes; the third paper uses data on medical marijuana patient registration to measure the size of the market and determine its effect on opioid and alcohol related outcomes. Taken together, these papers provide new insights into both the laws that have been passed to address the opioid crises, and their effectiveness on important health and safety outcomes.