Often an argument against legalizing medical cannabis is that it is correlated with crime. However, recent studies and police reports have shown that this is not the case. When medical cannabis programs are introduced into a state and the facts come to light, medical cannabis proponents are vindicated and patients receive the care they need.
Colorado has had medical cannabis for fourteen years, but when the plant became fully legalized at the state level, the Denver police noticed a drop in crime. Even with recreational pot available to the Colorado public, police noted a 6.9 percent decrease in violent crime in the first quarter of 2014 when compared to the same period in the previous year. Nonviolent crime did not see an increase, despite warnings from anti-pot activists who claimed that dispensaries would be constantly robbed.
Speaking to a Denver television reporter, Mendocino California Sherrif Tom Allman stated, “Thugs put on masks, they come to your house, they kick in your door. They point guns at you and say, ‘Give me your marijuana, give me your money.’” Allman’s 2012 attempt to scare voters away from legalizing marijuana for recreational use was not successful. Despite his colorful and terrifying warning, Denver did not see an increase in crime.
Another study, perhaps the longest-term study of therapeutic cannabis and crime, published by PLOS one charted crime against medical marijuana from 1990 when California first legalized medical cannabis up to 2006. The study found no correlation with crime. In fact, there seems to be a negative correlation with crime when marijuana is approved for therapeutic use.
The study correlated all of the data from every medical marijuana state to arrive at its findings. The study went through a peer-review process to validate its findings. The skeptics opinions prior to medical cannabis legalization were never peer-reviewed, but were broadcast on media outlets despite a dearth of evidence to back their claim. Medical cannabis proponents have used examples from other nations to back their claims of medical efficacy and social improvement.
While many states still have to work out how to best distribute and regulate medical cannabis, the administrative headaches are often allayed by a reduction in crime. Further, such growing pains diminish when patients are able to have free and open access to their medicine of choice without fear of legal reprisal.
Some have cast doubt on the PLOS study, as California only opened dispensaries in 2006. However, there have been no news reports nor police data to indicate a rise or fall in crime. If there had been any significant increase in crime since 2006, it seems likely that the trend would be reported by those antagonistic toward medical marijuana.
Though the data from Colorado only covers a single year, the outlook is promising. When Washington begins to open recreational marijuana shops and dispensaries later in the year, more data will be available to serve as a basis for fact-based discussions.
Until then, the claims of he pro-medical-marijuana faction seem to be vindicated. There is no positive correlation between medical cannabis and crime in any state. In the one state which has fully legalized the cannabis sativa plant and which has also opened dispensaries, there is, so far, a negative correlation between legalization and violent crimes. There is no need to think that legalization is a cause of low crime, but it’s certain that it doesn’t cause high crime.
By Hobie Anthony