“Distinct but not apart? Category destigmatization and its cascading consequences to other contested markets”
Previous research on destigmatization has been confined within the boundaries of a single organization or market category. However, destigmatization hinges on a judgement of moral (re)alignment with societal values whose significance transcends the boundaries of individual organizations or categories. Building on this intuition, we take a first step in the direction of uncovering the cascading effects of category destigmatization onto other categories. We argue that the legitimacy gains accompanying the destigmatization of a focal category spillover: (i) to other contested categories even latently endowed with the same morally approved attribute(s) around which destigmatization was framed, and (ii) particularly when sound practices ensure the manifestation of socially-valued consequences. For testing our theory, we leverage the variance induced by the recent shift of marijuana from a stigmatized to a morally legitimate category via its reclassification as a medicine in several U.S. states during the period 2000-2015. We then assessed the effect of medical marijuana laws on the consumption of alcohol and tobacco, two contested markets located at a different distance from marijuana along with the morally approved attribute (health safety), at the basis of legalization. Consistent with our arguments, we find that medical marijuana legalization only increases the consumption of alcohol - the category closer to marijuana along the health safety dimension-, especially so when legalization is accompanied by sound procedures that restrict marijuana consumption for medical purposes.