Sometimes the power of truth just isn’t enough to dispel old myths. Politicians in Washington are still ramping up their war on marijuana and they are using age old falsehoods to do it. Jeff Sessions recently reached out to Congress, basically asking them to allow him to go after legitimate medical marijuana providers. One of the claims that the anti-legalization crowd often turn to is that legalizing marijuana will lead to increased crime. We are now twenty years into the legalization experiment, and the statistics are in: marijuana legalization reduces crime rates across the board.
According to the Sessions memo to Congress, he stated in black and white, “Experts are telling me there’s more violence around marijuana than one would think and there’s big money involved.” When the top law enforcement official in the U.S defers to “experts” instead of publicly acknowledged statistics, you can detect that there are other agendas at play. Despite the AG’s claims, studies have conclusively shown that everywhere marijuana legalization becomes a reality, crime rates plummet.
Studies on marijuana and crime rates are not new. Justice department officials knew about the connection between legalization and decreasing crime rates as early as 2012. Between 2011 and 2012, California experienced a 20% drop in the juvenile crime statistics, credited to marijuana legalization. Statistics showed that the juvenile arrest rate dropped to levels not seen since before the failed war on drugs began in the 1980s. Besides marijuana possession arrests, violent crime also dropped by 16%, murder by 26%, and sexual crimes by 16%.
Colorado is not much different from California in as far as the trend in crime rates. Denver, Colorado’s biggest city, has experienced significant crime rate drops just since recreational pot went legal in 2014. Besides the reduction of drug-related charges filed, both violent and property crime rates fell. Auto burglary took the biggest hit with a 36% drop. Homicides fell by more tan 50% as did sexual assault and robberies. Another area which is surprisingly linked to marijuana legalization is the decrease in traffic fatalities and traffic homicides, which indicates that people are using legal marijuana responsibly.
California and Colorado are not alone. Similar statistics can be found in Washington state and Oregon. While one cannot definitively make the claim that legal marijuana reduces crime rates, if it walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it is most likely a duck. The one argument that can no longer be used is that legalizing marijuana does not lead to an increase in crime rates. So far all of the data would indicate the opposite. The conclusions that should be drawn, based on the available data, is that areas that make the decision to legalize and closely regulate and monitor the marijuana industry, show a distinct reduction in crime when compared to previous years. This should give everyone hope that one day the truth will win out over fear, and that legal marijuana will become the law of the land.
Cory Hughes is a former police officer turned cannabis cultivator and writer. After years of being on the wrong side of the law, Cory decided to hang up his badge and gun and move into an industry that truly has the potential of bringing people together. He has been an active part of the Colorado cannabis culture and has worked as a horticulturist in dozens of licensed grow operations. Cory now looks to share his knowledge of cultivation and horticulture with the world.