One of the claims made by the anti-pot crusaders — particularly government USA’s and DEA agents prosecuting legal medical marijuana clinics — is that pot shops are a magnet for crime. These claims have just been thrown out there with little evidence to back them up. But they’ve used to justify raiding pot shops, shutting them down, threatening landlords with asset forfeiture and other fun games our federal government likes to play.
Well, someone took a look at the, you know, facts:
A study published by the online journal PLOS One yesterday finds that adoption of medical marijuana laws is not associated with an increase in crime and may even result in fewer assaults and homicides. Robert G. Morris and three other University of Texas at Dallas criminologists looked at trends in homicide, rape, robbery, assault, burglary, larceny, and auto theft in the 11 states that legalized marijuana for medical use between 1990 and 2006. While crime fell nationwide during this period, it fell more sharply in the medical marijuana states, even after the researchers adjusted for various other differences between states. Morris and his colleagues suggest that the substitution of marijuana for alcohol could explain this result, although they caution that the extra reduction in crime might be due to a confounding variable they did not consider.
This is what legalization advocates have been arguing for years — that prohibition creates crime and criminals and that a legalized drug trade would drive down crime rates. In fact, this comports so closely to their claims that I’m actually reluctant to read too much into it. I want to see what other studies show — including studies of Colorado and Washington — before I draw any firm conclusions.
Despite my caution, I will say this is an encouraging finding. I don’t expect the Drug Warriors to acknowledge it (they would, of course, trumpet a study that claimed the opposite). We also have to see what the effects of legal pot shops are on use, addiction and other health outcomes. But it is both satisfying and enraging to see more evidence piling up that our decades-long experiment in prohibition was as big a disaster as we feared.