Recent study suggests that youth cannabis-related crime has significantly reduced post-legalization

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Bethan Rose Jenkins, Cannabis News Writer/Editorial

Northern Medical Program professor at University of Northern British Columbia (UNBC), Dr. Russ Callaghan, has revealed some astonishing insights into the impact that cannabis legalization has had on youth cannabis offenses across Canada.

According to Dr. Callagahan, the rate of cannabis-focused police-reported incidents among the younger generation appeared to sink 65 percent after the North American country legalized weed in 2018.

A group of national researchers from UNBC took part in the project alongside Dr. Callagan. Moving forwards, the research team is hoping to carry out a follow-up study that will explore the influence of cannabis legalization on police-reported crimes over the duration of 14-and-a-half months.

Based on the study’s hypothesis, cannabis-related crime among the youth consumer demographic has reduced as a repercussion of Canada’s Cannabis Act. As per the law, youths aged 12-17 can possess a maximum of five grams of dried cannabis for sharing or personal consumption.

2017 study mirrors findings of the most recent study on cannabis-related crime 

A separate study that was published in 2017 revealed similar insights into the effect(s) that legalization has had on cannabis-related crime. However, the study explored data from the United States, as opposed to Canada. 

In Washington State, where recreational cannabis was legalized in 2013, low-level cannabis-focused court filings sank 98 percent between 2012 and 2013. Additionally, the number of adults aged 21 and over who were convicted for misdemeanor possession sank from 297 in January to 0 in 1 ACLU Washington.

Cases of cannabis cultivation, distribution and possession also appeared to nosedive in Colorado. During the state’s first year of legal sales in 2014, such cases plummeted by 85 percent in comparison with the average figures recorded in the three years before legalization took effect.

Separate study connects legalization with increase youth crime rates

On the other end of the spectrum, this study indicates that cannabis consumption in adolescence and early adulthood may be linked with subsequent participation in criminal activity and subsequent criminal charges. In order to glean these findings, the team pulled data from the Young in Norway Longitudinal Study, which featured a population-based sample (n = 1353) covering subjects aged from 13 to 27.

Data was collected on cannabis consumption, alcohol consumption and alcohol problems, as well as the use of other illegal substances like amphetamines, cocaine and opiates. Additionally, the researchers gleaned information on socio-demographic, family and personal factors.

Significant associations were noticeable among young adolescents who use cannabis, many of whom were later charged with a criminal fraction. Numerous influential factors had a role to play in this, including family parental support and monitoring, socio-economic background, educational achievement and job type, prior criminal charges, and history of cohabitation/marital problems.