A recent study published by the Royal Economic Society shows that there may be a link between some states passing medical marijuana laws and decreased violence associated with Mexican drug cartels. This appears to be especially stronger in border states.
The Free Beacon reports:
To determine the effect of medical marijuana laws on violent crime rates, the study authors performed three comparisons: They studied crime rates in counties before and after the introduction of medical marijuana; then between counties with and without medical marijuana; and finally, between counties at the border and further inland.
Combining these conclusions results in a reduction of 12.5 percent in the violent crime rate for border counties. Analysis using an alternate data set produced even more stark declines in violence: medical marijuana has "lead to a 40.6 percent decrease in drug-law related homicides in Mexican border states," the study says.
"We find that when a neighbour to a Mexican border state passes a MML [medical marijuana law], this results in a significant reduction in violent crime rates in the border state. More generally, we find that when a state passes a MML this reduces crime rates in the state in which the nearest Mexican border crossing is located. This evidence is consistent with our hypothesis that MMLs lead to a reduction in demand for illegal marijuana, followed by a reduction in revenue for Mexican DTOs, and, hence, a reduction in violence in the Mexican-border area," the study concludes.
You can read the full study here.
The 18-year-old question as to whether or not legalizing medical marijuana causes an increase in crime seems to be answered in a recent study by a team of researchers from The University of Texas at Dallas this week. The results did not indicate a “crime exacerbating effect” of medical marijuana on any of the Part I offenses, which (according to the FBI) include homicide, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny, and auto theft.
Alternatively, states with medical marijuana laws showed a reduction in homicide and assault rates. This is congruent to other studies by The National Academy of Sciences that found THC -- the active ingredient in pot -- actually causes a decrease in "aggressive and violent behavior" in chronic marijuana users.
"The findings on the relationship between violence and marijuana use are mixed and much of the evidence points toward reductions in violent behavior for those who smoke marijuana," Robert Morris, the study’s lead author, said in a recent interview with the Huffington Post. "In fact, researchers have suggested that any increase in criminality resulting from marijuana use may be explained by its illegality, rather than from the substance itself."
These findings run counter to arguments that suggest making marijuana legal for medical purposes poses a danger to public health, in terms of exposure to violent crime and property crimes.
At a Denver City Council hearing held on Monday to discuss implementing a 5% marijuana sales tax, Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey held the floor to claim that medical marijuana dispensaries are a haven for assaults, robberies, and murder.
“We have had 12 homicides related directly to medical marijuana,” Morrissey told the council. “We have had over 100 aggravated robberies and home invasions. Many of you probably didn’t read about the double-execution-style homicide that we had here in Denver… This is an ugly secret.”
Several council members expressed their shock and concern over the DA’s previously unheard-of claims. When questioned about the validity of his statistics on Tuesday, though, Morrissey clarified that he’d cited “loose figures” and that none of the homicides actually occurred at a medical marijuana facility. In reality, most of the homicides happened during home invasions, and in some cases, it is uncertain whether marijuana played a role.
Mason Tvert, communications director at MPP, spoke to The Huffington Post to help set the record straight:
“Morrissey’s suggestion that the state- and locally-regulated medical marijuana industry is somehow at fault for crimes that occurred entirely outside of its scope is ludicrous and irresponsible. I cannot imagine any other instance in which he would place blame for violent crimes on law-abiding businesses and citizens who have fallen victim to them.”
Tvert’s claim that dispensaries are not causing violent crime is backed by police statistics. In 2009, the Denver Police Department found that robbery and burglary rates at dispensaries were lower than area banks and liquor stores and on par with those of pharmacies. In 2010, police in Colorado Springs found that robbery and burglary rates at area dispensaries were no higher than at non-marijuana-related businesses. Discussing the findings, Sgt. Darrin Abbink said, “I don’t think the data really supports [dispensaries] are more likely to be targeted at this point.”
Of the robberies and assaults that have occurred, industry representatives say that medical marijuana dispensaries may only be targeted because current banking laws force them to deal in cash rather than credit.
Tvert continued, “If Morrissey is truly concerned about enhancing public safety, he should be testifying in support of policies that will eliminate the underground marijuana market and replace it with a system in which marijuana is regulated like alcohol. He should not be resorting to scare tactics and reefer madness.”
In medical marijuana states, it is pretty common to hear sensational news reports about crime associated with dispensaries. Stories of violent robberies, late-night burglaries, diversion and illegal sales, weapons, and even murder get a lot of attention from the media. They get even more attention from law enforcement, who see such stories as yet another way to convince people that medical marijuana is dangerous and scary and should be revoked.
Law enforcement is so desperate to prove this connection between dispensaries and crime that they searched all over the country for data that would support their hypothesis.
Lo and behold, it turns out the exact opposite is true.
Today, the non-partisan Rand Corporation released a study on crime near dispensaries conducted in Los Angeles before and after a recent ordinance forced the closure of nearly 400 locations. According to the report, crime increased by as much as 54% in the areas surrounding dispensaries that were forced to close within ten days of the ordinance going into effect. Neighborhoods near dispensaries that stayed open showed no increase in crime during that period.
We at MPP have been saying for some time that by closing dispensaries in medical marijuana states (or localities, even), authorities are driving patients into the illicit market. While I would hesitate to call such an act a crime, as opposed to a necessity, this study apparently shows that other sorts of crime are affected by the presence of dispensaries. Some contributing factors include the large volume of people there throughout the day, the security measures put in place to protect patients and employees, and the fact that the police actually depend on dispensary video surveillance to prevent and solve crimes!
Authorities should take note of this information, particularly in places like Michigan and Montana, where the medical marijuana industries have been all but shut down recently by overzealous public officials and community groups. Most of these groups depended on overblown concerns about community safety for their efforts to be successful. It’s time for a little education.
The FBI released their annual Uniform Crime Report yesterday, and the results are anything but surprising. Across the country, people continue to be arrested for marijuana-related violations at an alarming rate, despite the steadily decreasing stigma associated with it and increasing efforts at reforming our irrational marijuana laws. And guess what? It still isn’t working. Our esteemed leaders claim otherwise, even while admitting that they need to change their tactics!
Over the past year, the Obama administration stated that the “war on drugs” is over, and that the government was going to shift its focus away from law enforcement and interdiction and instead put more effort toward public health and education with regard to drugs. At a press conference just last week, Office of National Drug Control Policy director Gil Kerlikowske stated that we cannot arrest our way out of the drug problem.
If these statements are true, then how do they justify the arrests of more than 853,000 people for marijuana-related violations in 2010? That’s one person arrested every 19 seconds! The Drug Czar maintains that law enforcement protocols are still considered a useful tool for eliminating suppliers and dealers as a way to decrease overall use.
Okay, that seems like it makes sense. So how many of those 853,000 arrests were for sale or manufacture of marijuana? The answer is just over 103,000. That means that more than 750,000 people were arrested last year for simple possession! A remarkably small number of people who may have distributed marijuana were arrested last year, along with three quarters of a million simple users, in an effort to curb marijuana use nationwide.
Were those people “useful tools” in preventing marijuana use? Absolutely not. According to the government’s own data, marijuana use actually increased last year.
Now, we’ve seen that Kerlikowske is correct when he says that we can’t arrest our way out of this “problem.” We can see that arresting people for marijuana, even for marijuana sales, has no effect on marijuana use rates. This glaringly obvious fact makes such statements from the federal government even more confusing, given their continued trend of upholding the status quo at all costs.
Let’s look at some slightly more disturbing aspects of this report.
Arrests for simple marijuana possession accounted for 5.7% of all arrests in 2010! That is a significant percentage of our law enforcement efforts devoted to punishing people for a victimless crime. It seems that there are better ways to use those resources, especially considering that there were more arrests for marijuana possession than for all violent crimes. How many violent acts occurred last year that did not result in an arrest? How many rapes and murders went unsolved due to lack of funds or personnel?
The Obama administration has repeatedly claimed that we need to rethink our approach to drug problems. If it really means this, it needs to seriously consider the most obvious starting point: taxing and regulating marijuana for adults. It is time we stop spending billions of dollars ruining people’s lives in a vain attempt to prevent them from using a plant that humans have used safely for thousands of years.
We’ve all heard the rhetoric, trotted out again and again by law enforcement and paranoid city officials, that dispensaries and other marijuana facilities cause crime wherever they are. They focus on a horror story and blame the dispensary regardless of the facts at hand. They point to media coverage of similar incidents and say that all dispensaries are blights on the community.
Now, the media and the authorities are very good at using scare tactics, but what they consistently lack are statistical data to support their claims. This is because there is no such data.
Yesterday, the Denver Post reported that neither Colorado Springs or Denver police could find any data to support a correlation between dispensaries and increases in crime. In fact, such locations were the targets of crime at rates comparable to any other business. Criminal acts in the surrounding areas did not rise when the stores opened.
This is surely disappointing to many prohibitionists, most notably Kevin Sabet, a special advisor to the Office of National Drug Control Policy. Over the summer, Sabet was so desperate to prove the negative effects of dispensaries that he started an intensive search for anything that could provide statistical support for the wild claims of law enforcement.
Looks like he came up short.