Major Crime Rates Unaffected by Marijuana Legalization, According to Study

Major Crime Rates Unaffected by Marijuana Legalization, According to Study



One thing alarmists love to say is that marijuana legalization will cause an increase in violent crimes, theft and other major offences. Of course, there has never been evidence to back up such scare tactics.

But thanks to a recent study, we now have some answers – and they are not what prohibitionists want to hear.

According to SciTechDaily, marijuana did not induce the psychotic, irrational behaviours depicted in Reefer Madness that – had they been true – would have led to an increase in major crimes against people or property.


“Minimal to No Effect”


The study’s scope was limited to two states – Washington and Colorado. Researchers chose them because they legalized the drug in 2012, well ahead of their (currently) nine counterparts. This gave them the widest berth for any trends in crime to fully establish themselves.

They then compared the crime rates in these two places with 21 states where marijuana is illegal recreationally and at least heavily restricted, if not banned, for medical use.

Researchers than looked at complete FBI crime statistics from 1999 to 2016.

SciTechDaily explains:


“A new study funded by a grant from the National Institute of Justice sought to determine the effect of this legal change on crime rates. The study, which looked at legalization and sales of recreational cannabis in Colorado and Washington, found minimal to no effect on rates of violent and property crimes in those states… The study calculated how violent and property crimes changed for Colorado and Washington after the legalization and retail sale, and compared the changes to what happened in states that had not legalized marijuana.”


Given the fact that legalization is a hot topic in many states, studies like these are more important than ever. But they are not always so straightforward.

Past studies failed to provide anything useful. In fact:


“Previous studies have reported mixed and inconclusive results on how legalizing cannabis affects crime. Some politicians and advocacy groups have used these data to support their positions for and against legalization.”


However, this latest research is a huge improvement, according to its authors:


“In this new study, researchers used methods that they say are more rigorous than those used in previous research (i.e., quasi-experimental approaches that more closely emulate experiments and provide stronger evidence) to determine whether the legalization of cannabis led to changes in crime rates.”



No Mention of Smaller Crimes


It is important to clarify that the study only covered major crimes. The authors freely admit that their research did not cover “other types of crime,” such as marijuana-impaired driving.

They also said that that the effects of marijuana laws can vary from one community to another within a state.

However, this is still a start. Dale W. Willits, an assistant professor in criminology and criminal justice from Washington State University, is a coauthor of the study. He says:


“As the nationwide debate about legalization, the federal classification of cannabis under the Controlled Substances Act, and the consequences of legalization for crime continues, it is essential to center that discussion on studies that use contextualized and robust research designs with as few limitations as possible. This is but one study and legalization of marijuana is still relatively new, but by replicating our findings, policymakers can answer the question of how legalization affects crime.”


WeedAdvisor’s Support for Ongoing Research


While we are happy to hear about these recent findings, we understand the limitations and the need for further research. As global experts in cannabis business solutions, WeedAdvisor wants to see the industry gain a positive reputation and lose any misinformation or stigma from prohibition.

But the truth is that we need to acknowledge any drawbacks that exist in order to ensure our role as educators remains reliable and objective. Hopefully, future researchers will apply the same methodologies as the aforementioned study to shed light on other crimes and their connection to marijuana.



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