As more states legalize marijuana for both medicinal and adult use, the more the theories that prohibitionists use as arguments against legalization are proven to be false. A study published in August 2019 in the journal Regional Science and Urban Economics is one of a handful to look at the effect legalization has on crime rates at a local level. And according to their study, crime drops noticeably in neighborhoods that are home to a dispensary or two.
“The results imply that an additional dispensary in a neighborhood leads to a reduction of 17 crimes per month per 10,000 residents, which corresponds to roughly a 19 percent decline relative to the average crime rate over the sample period,” the study states.
The study specifically focused on Denver, Colorado – one of the most prominent cities in the first state to legalize adult-use cannabis – over the span of 3 years, from January 2013 to December 2016. Though the state legalized cannabis by voter amendment in 2012, the laws were not implemented until January 2014, with sales beginning shortly thereafter.
“Our results are consistent with theories that predict that marijuana legalization will displace illicit criminal organizations and decrease crime through changes in security behaviors or substitution toward more harmful substances.”
Researchers did note that much of the crime that had decreased in the area were nonviolent crimes, including criminal trespassing, public disorder, criminal mischief and simple assault. However, they also found that drug-related offenses fell by 2.3 crimes per month in a neighborhood of 10,000 people. The authors of the study pointed out that these changes in crime could possibly be due to increased law enforcement presence near dispensaries.
“The results show no evidence supporting theories that marijuana dispensaries increase local cannabis crimes (since we do not find increases in marijuana crimes such as cultivation, possession, or sales nearby) or that dispensaries increase crimes through increased intoxication (since there is essentially no change in the number of crimes with marijuana as a ‘contributing factor’ near locations that gain dispensaries),” the study concluded.
No matter the reason, the important thing to note here is that crime rates dropped where there were cannabis dispensaries. This directly conflicts with prohibitionist theories and arguments that claim legal cannabis and dispensaries make crime rates worse. And despite the fact that this study looks at Denver specifically, chances are pretty good that similar results would be found in any city that welcomes legal cannabis.