Marijuana Legalization And Crime: The Only Facts You Need To Know

It’s been one of the primary claims made by the opponents of cannabis regulation for generations: Increased marijuana use will lead to more violent crime. Here are the facts about marijuana legalization and crime.


Earlier this year, Attorney General revived the debate when he declared:

“We’re seeing real violence around that (marijuana legalization). Experts are telling me there’s more violence around marijuana than one would think and there’s big money involved.”

The nation’s top cop didn’t provide any data or clarify where he received his information. (“Experts are telling me ..” is clearly not verifiable.)

But data provided by official state agencies simply does not support the claims of the attorney general. States that regulate and license the production and distribution of cannabis have not seen “more violence around marijuana.” Nor have they seen an increase in violent crime. Statistics demonstrate that many jurisdictions have experienced a drop in violent crime following legalization efforts.

An important caveat: Advocates on both sides of the issue will toss around numbers in an attempt to support their argument. But correlation does not necessarily imply causation. One thing is certain: The fear-mongering of increased crime surrounding marijuana regulation is a canard.

A 2014 study published by researchers at the University of Texas demonstrated that the enactment of “medical marijuana laws precedes a reduction in homicide and assault. … In sum, these findings run counter to arguments suggesting the legalization of marijuana for medical purposes poses a danger to public health in terms of exposure to violent crime and property crimes.”

Robert Morris from the University of Texas, analyzed data supplied from the FBI and found:

“[Medical marijuana legislation] is not predictive of higher crime rates and may be related to reductions in rates of homicide and assault. … Given the relationship between alcohol and violent crime, it may turn out that substituting marijuana for alcohol leads to minor reductions in violent crimes.”

Another study published by researchers at UCLA reported that the growth of medical marijuana outlets in urban areas “was not associated with violent crime or property crime rates.” The researchers suggested that medical marijuana dispensaries may reduce neighborhood crime because of the security precautions taken by business owners.

In the state of Washington, which legalized adult recreational consumption three years ago,  violent crime fell 10 percent statewide.

In Seattle, the state’s largest city, overall crime numbers in February 2017 were the lowest in five years. So far this year, there has been a major drop in crime rates.

Rates of violent crime and property crime fell in the city of Denver following legalization. Crime rates have similarly declined in Portland, Oregon according to a recent CATO think-tank policy report.

According to CATO’s researchers:

“The absence of significant adverse consequences is especially striking given the sometimes dire predictions made by legalization opponents.”

No credible data exists that supports an association between increased violent crime and regulated cannabis.  Studies suggest that violent crime goes down in states with legalized medical marijuana.

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