Back in April, the Department of Justice put together a task force that was charged with putting out a report on current policies and violent crime, and it specifically included potential changes to how marijuana cases are sentenced and charged. Then, just last month, Jeff Sessions personally sent a letter to Congress asking them to remove the only barrier that stands between him and medical marijuana patients, businesses and everyone else who uses or works with cannabis legally within their state.
That report from the DOJ Task Force is expected to be complete and ready for review by July 27th – so in a couple days we will have their suggestions on how the government should be handling marijuana cases. Unfortunately, from the sounds of it, the DOJ will likely have linked cannabis to violent crime in the report – even though pretty much all of the dangers associated with cannabis are due to its illegal status.
“The task force revolves around reducing violent crime and Sessions and other DOJ officials have been out there over the last month and explicitly the last couple of weeks talking about how immigration and marijuana increases violent crime,” said Inimai Chettiar, director of the Brennan Center’s Justice Program.
However, if that is the sort of skewed data we end up seeing in the report, a very recent study actually contradicts those assumptions. The study conducted by the University of Southern California and the University of California, Irvine, found that in Los Angeles, where there was a mass shut down of dispensaries in 2010, the crime rates in those areas actually went up in the years after the closures. This goes to show that rather than attracting violent crime, marijuana dispensaries can actually cut down on neighborhood crime.
With this study coming out recently, and previous similar studies noting the same, it goes to show that legalization does not increase the rate of violent crime. If anything, keeping marijuana illegal creates opportunities for violent crime. We won’t know what the DOJ report is going to look like until later in the week – but then we will finally get an idea of how Sessions hopes to handle the growing cannabis industry in the U.S., which has been implemented by both voters and lawmakers who have realized legalization and regulation is the better alternative to prohibition.