Craig Close ’19, an economics major and Westover Honors student from Fredericksburg, Virginia, shared research from his senior thesis at the 45th Annual Conference of the Eastern Economic Association, held February 28 through March 2 in New York City.
His thesis, “The Effects of Marijuana Legislation on Opioid Use and Policy Solutions,” analyzes the effectiveness of state-level policy initiatives aimed at reducing deaths tied to opioid overdoses. Close’s research expanded on an earlier study by Powell et al., which examined data from 1999 to 2013. For his thesis, Close also analyzed data from 2014 through 2016.
“What is being compared between the states, over time, is how opioid usage, which can be measured by overdose mortality rates from opioid use or admissions into rehab from opioid use, changes when medical marijuana is legal and dispensaries for it are protected by law and operating,” Close said.
“The hypothesis is that marijuana [could] be somewhat of a substitute for opioids and, because of that, giving patients access to marijuana as an alternative can reduce opioid use. I was interested in this because of the prevalence of opioid abuse and its effect on people and society.”
Dr. Michael Craig, assistant professor of economics at Lynchburg, collaborated with Close and encouraged him to present his research at the conference. It started last fall when another economics faculty member, Dr. Gerald Prante, invited economics and finance faculty to have lunch with his senior thesis class.
“Craig described a project related to something separate I was working on, so I offered to advise him on his project,” Dr. Craig said. “He made some good progress on his project early on, so I informed him of the opportunity to present his version of the paper at a conference in New York, where I was planning on presenting other research.
“After he completed his thesis class, I took a more active role in helping him with his analysis and interpreting the results to prepare for his presentation.”
Dr. Prante also assisted Close with his thesis and literature review. “He gave me a lot of feedback on my work,” Close said.