New Data weeds out interesting find: The legalization of marijuana may not lead to an increase in violent crime
Legalizing medical marijuana has many detractors. There is the fear that any drug use leads to more pervasive drug abuse with even more sinister options like heroin and cocaine. There’s even research that shows that marijuana affects emotions and memory. This is especially of concern for young people. Why expose teens to marijuana now, only to lead them to worse behavior later?
On the other hand, opponents recognize that these simple dried leaves help millions of people with serious diseases such as multiple sclerosis, glaucoma, AIDS, cancer and other illnesses that cause severe pain.
There’s something else opponents and even some supporters worry about: violent crime. Some feared legalization of medical marijuana would lead to an increase in some of the worst violent crimes in an already over aggressive society. We have video games, we don’t not need to “stir the pot” with another puff of violence, so goes the argument.
But, a recent study seems to debunk that theory. A nationwide study published in the journal PLOS One shows no hard evidence that legalizing marijuana leads to higher crime rates. Instead, there may be a correlation with less violent crime.
Researchers from the University of Texas at Dallas examined FBI data from 11 states where medical marijuana became legal from 1990 to 2006. During that time, there were no alarm bells. Violent crime, “even those you might associate with pot dispensaries, such as robbery and burglary” did not go up.
While a decline in crime can have many explanations, researchers here offered the following: people are using more marijuana and drinking less. Alcohol is often closely related to acts of violent crime, whereas marijuana is not. Researchers seem to be suggesting that because medical marijuana has been legalized, people are smoking more pot and drinking less alcohol, thus the lack of increase in violent crime.
Researchers warn that interpreting these findings regarding marijuana use and crime must be viewed with caution. It is evidence, but not all evidence is created equal. It is hard to deny that the results do support the notion that many supporters have held: the more you smoke, the less you’ll drink. The study seems to suggest that this may indeed be happening, thus leading to actual detected levels of reduced violence in communities.
Colorado will certainly be a state to watch in the future, as the legalization of marijuana for recreational and medical use has become a booming business to say the least. If a noticeable decrease in violent crime is detected there, researchers from the UT-D will have more evidence to support their findings.
In the meantime, we’ll wait and watch, cautiously, the statistics for FBI crime data on burglary, rape, robbery, assault, larceny, murder, and other violent crimes pre and post marijuana legalization.
Kimberly worked as a broadcaster from high school until her first year of law school. She’s a graduate from California Western School of Law. She currently works as a litigation law clerk in Southern California and is passionate about news, legal journalism, economic crime, and new technology. Kimberly lives in Southern CA, but is an east coast native. In her spare time, Kimberly loves going to live concerts and hanging out in Santa Monica.