Opponents of legal medical marijuana have long feared it will result in more crime, but a recent study suggests that the opposite may be true. A new journal article found that legalized medical marijuana could actually cause a reduction in some violent crime—even murder.
Researchers at the University of Texas as Dallas conducted the study, which used data from FBI Uniform Crime Reports, state websites, The Bureau of Labor Statistics, the census, the Beer Institute, and The Bureau of Economic Analysis to analyze the crime rates in every state from 1990 to 2006. Eleven states passed laws legalizing medical pot during these years. The team looked at the effect of legalization on crimes such as homicide, robbery, rape, burglary, aggravated assault, auto theft, and larceny (what the FBI considers “Part I” crimes).
The researchers controlled for factors in fluctuating crime rates, including employment, poverty, education, and beer sales, and then examined the results. They failed to find any evidence that Part I crimes increased in the 11 states after those states legalized medical marijuana. In fact, the team discovered partial support that some violent crimes, such as assault and homicide, actually declined after the laws were passed.
The lead author of the study, associate criminology professor Robert Morris, reiterated the findings to The Huffington Post: “We believe that medical marijuana legalization poses no threat of increased violent crime.”
Marijuana and crime
It is important to note that the study examined the effects of legalization on crime, not the relationship between violent crime and marijuana use. However, other studies that have looked at that link have been unable to establish a connection. Morris pointed out that other researchers have indicated, “…any increase in criminality resulting from marijuana use may be explained by its illegality, rather than from the substance itself.”
The future of medical marijuana
Since 2006, twelve more states and the District of Columbia have legalized medical marijuana, bringing the total number of states/districts that allow legal medical use of pot to 24. Many more states are likely slated to make medical marijuana legal soon. With studies like the UT Dallas findings chipping away at the argument that legal marijuana results in more crime, more states may be following in their footsteps.
If you have been arrested for or charged with possession of marijuana, contact the leading criminal defense lawyer in Las Vegas at (702) 868-8866 today for more information or to schedule a consultation.