“As of 2008, fifteen states have passed medical marijuana laws. These state laws are contrary to federal law, which takes the position that marijuana is a harmful and addictive drug with no medicinal value. Scientific evidence generally contradicts this position, but the federal government, along with thirty-five of the states, maintains it. So, what explains state-level variation in medical marijuana laws? This thesis tests the claim that factors beyond the scope of public health concerns affect marijuanalegislation. Status politics and racial threat approaches are tested as determinants of medical marijuana legislation. Generational and partisan politics hypotheses are also tested. State-level pooled time-series data is used to analyze the changes made to state marijuana laws between 2000 and 2008. The results indicate that several factors, including the percentage of Protestants in the population, race, and generational factors affect the likelihood of having medical marijuana laws in place.”