California has shown a decrease around 20% in the states crime rates since the legalization of marijuana. And, in almost all states where it is legal, the medical marijuana laws have shown little effect on the violent and property crime rates.
California led the charge by legalizing medical marijuana back in 1996. Now 30 states and Washington D.C. have legalized marijuana for medical use. This shows the drastic change in U.S. policy toward the substance.
Studies have shown that the use of marijuana has increased in medical use states, including among non-patients. It is difficult to determine the effects of marijuana use because the individuals who choose to use it tend to be different from individuals who will not.
The benefit of legal medical use is it allows researchers to have a basis to study health outcomes. This includes the effects on opioid use, hard drug use, and drunk driving.
It has been speculated marijuana use leads to criminal activity since the 1930s. Harry Anslinger, the Narcotics Bureau chief at the time, collected anecdotal evidence to support the desire to make the drug illegal. This evidence is recorded in the Gore Files.
The Arrestee Drug Abuse Monitoring Program records show more than 50% of adult males arrested test positive for marijuana, thus showing a strong connection between marijuana and criminal activity. Heavy users with financial needs can move into property crime to finance their habits.
There have been studies that show long-term harmful effects on the brain, some causing violent behaviors. There is additional MRI evidence among casual and abstinent users showing brain abnormalities.
This could be a false correlation between marijuana users and their willingness to commit crimes. It is only logical to assume people willing to break the law will use marijuana while it is illegal.
To gather data criminal offense records were used spanning more than 25 years (1988-2013). Cities with at least 50,000 residents were analyzed. A synthetic control group was created to estimate the outcomes of the medical marijuana laws. This was used in parallel to traditional regression analysis.
The synthetic control group was created from multiple cities with no medical marijuana laws. This was done to ensure a solid control group with pre-law crime rates.
These groups were used to estimate the crime rates in a city with no medical marijuana laws versus what the city’s crime rate would look like if medical marijuana were made legal. This is done to estimate the causal effects of the marijuana laws.
Evidence of the study show the synthetic cities closely correlate to actual medical marijuana cities. The results show no substantial change in crime rates. Even when specific crimes are tested, the results remain the same.
These findings allow it to be generally assumed that medical marijuana laws do not increase crime rates. The connection between the two is mostly speculation.
Over the last two decades since California legalized medical marijuana the states violent and property crime has dropped 20%. It has also been reported there are more marijuana dispensaries in LA than Starbucks or McDonalds.
The marijuana black market has shrunk since the opening of the dispensaries. It can be assumed police funds have been reallocated away from enforcing laws against marijuana to the violent crime in the state. The dispensaries may deter crime because of the high security due to the fact they must deal in cash.
It can be argued the medical marijuana legalization has also reduced crime on the Mexican border. Evidence shows a reduction of violent crimes in states bordering Mexico.
Though marijuana use increases among non-patients in medical marijuana states, most of the stigma against its use is unfounded. It is seen that the legalization leads to no negative social outcomes.
This study shows medical marijuana legalization does not lead to more crime. It may help reduce it. The experience with marijuana in the US is different because of the nations War on Drugs. But research may help other nations such as Canada and New Zealand be more informed on the outcomes of changing the laws. Mainly the study shows that medical marijuana legalization and use does not cause crime rates to increase and this likely applies to other countries outside of the US.