Some who fight against cannabis legalization use crime as the reason – claiming that violent crime will increase after the plant is made commercially available. However, many studies have proven that the riskiest thing about cannabis is its illegal status, and that violent crime surrounding cannabis is almost always due to the illegality of the plant. Now, a new study has found that legalizing medical marijuana has reduced violent crime in states along the Mexican border, rather than increasing it.
According to the study titled “Is Legal Pot Crippling Mexican Drug Trafficking Organizations? The Effect of Medical Marijuana Laws on US Crimes” researchers found that violent crime went down by 13 percent on average in states bordering Mexico. California, having the biggest market, saw the biggest reduction, at 15 percent; meanwhile, Arizona saw the lowest reduction at 7 percent.
When it was broken down into individual crimes, the ones that saw the biggest change after medical marijuana legalization were robbery – which fell 19 percent, and murder, which fell 10 percent. However, the most important statistic, was homicides that directly related to drug trafficking – which fell by a whopping 41 percent after legalization.
“When the effect on crime is so significant, it’s obviously better to regulate marijuana and allow people to pay taxes on it rather than make it illegal,” said economist Evelina Gavrilova, one of the authors of the study, said. “For me it’s a no brainer that it should be legal and should be regulated, and the proceeds go to the Treasury.”
To conduct the study, researchers analyzed data from the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) uniform crime reports and other homicide records from 1994, two years before California was the first to vote to legalize medical marijuana – until 2012, the year Colorado and Washington became the first to legalize recreational use.
“These laws allow local farmers to grow marijuana that can then be sold to dispensaries where it is sold legally,” Gavrilova continued. “These growers are in direct competition with Mexican drug cartels that are smuggling the marijuana into the U.S. As a result, the cartels get much less business.”
“Whenever there is a medical marijuana law we observe that crime at the border decreases because suddenly there is a lot less smuggling and a lot less violence associated with that.”
The study explains that the legal in-state production of cannabis along the border is directly connected to the reduction in crime as it reduces the amount of cannabis flowing into the U.S. from Mexico. With more and more evidence that legalizing cannabis can reduce crime, rather than contribute to it, it is no wonder more than half of U.S. voters are in favor of ending prohibition.