American Government and Politics

State Policy and National Representation: Marijuana Politics in American Federalism

Sam Trachtman University of California, Berkeley


Members of Congress represent geographically demarcated districts embedded in subnational policy environments. Drawing on policy feedback literature and literature on congressional representation, I argue that, because of this institutional configuration, subnational policy adoption can affect national representation. More specifically, policy reforms in the states they represent can increase pressures members face from organized groups and individuals in their constituencies to promote aligned federal policies. Empirically, I examine the effects of state marijuana legalization. The inferential design leverages differences across the states in statewide citizen initiative institutions, which provides exogenous variation in legalization. Instrumental variables analysis indicates legalization influenced pro-marijuana bill sponsorship and roll calls in the 116th Congress. The evidence points to growing influence of industry in legalizing states—including the ability to mobilize employees and customers—as the key mechanism, thus underscoring the importance of a political economy perspective for studying interdependencies in American federalism.


Thumbnail image of mj_feedback_congress_2-16-2021_integrated.pdf


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