A Colorado District Attorney – and candidate for CO Attorney General – is trying to tie a supposed increase in homicides related to illegal marijuana sales to voters approving adult-use legalization in the state in 2012.
“We’ve had violent crimes associated with the transaction of illegal marijuana in increasing numbers,” said George Brauchler, 18th Judicial District DA. “And homicides that might have previously been about cocaine or meth? Now, a huge chunk of those drug homicides are related to the transaction of illegal marijuana.”
Perhaps realizing that the non-existent and illogical correlation between legalization and more murders over illegal marijuana was shaky ground, Brauchler’s fallback position is that proponents of legalization promised an elimination of the black market and that hasn’t happened. Referring to a specific homicide this summer, Brauchler said, “Here is yet another violent crime related to marijuana. Whatever benefits there may be from the legalization of marijuana, eradicating violent crime associated with it is not one of them.”
No one who understands how prohibition works would claim that legalization will eliminate the black market. Alcohol is legal, but people still make moonshine. Tobacco is legal, but in some states many buy cigarettes on the street to avoid paying high taxes. The black market for cannabis will always be around, but its size and influence will depend on the supply and price of legal cannabis. The lower the price of legal marijuana in comparison to illegal marijuana and the greater the legal supply and variety of legal supply, the larger market share the legal industry will claim.
“During the pitch for why we should support the amendment, a big part of it was, ‘We’re going to save a ton of money because law enforcement won’t have to spend time tracking down low-level street users of marijuana,” Brauchler said. “We’ll be able to focus on bigger crimes, because street use will be legalized.’ That’s true only to the extent that we don’t arrest people for usable amounts of marijuana 99 times out of 100, because it’s legal in almost every circumstance. But the amendment hasn’t done anything about violent crime associated with it.”
As long as money can be made selling an illegal product, those selling will use violence as recourse to settle disputes. But even Brauchler admits that the motivating factor in many of these cases was not marijuana at all, but robbery.
So to say that legalization has done nothing to decrease the violent crime associated with the cannabis black market is pure speculation at best, backed by no real evidence.