Medical cannabis legalization may reduce crime

Thor Benson / Cannabis News Box Contributor

Cannabis critics love to claim that legalizing medical cannabis will cause crime to go up, but it’s looking like the opposite might be true. According to a new study, violent crime has been reduced by roughly 13 percent in states on the border of Mexico that have legalized medical cannabis.

“These laws allow local farmers to grow marijuana that can then be sold to dispensaries where it is sold legally,” economist Evelina Gavrilova, one of the study’s authors, told The Guardian. “These growers are in direct competition with Mexican drug cartels that are smuggling the marijuana into the US. As a result, the cartels get much less business.”

Essentially, when the cartels don’t completely control the supply of cannabis in a state located near Mexico, there’s less cartel activity and less violence. A study from 2014 also found that legalizing medical cannabis causes a reduction in crime. The new study was done by looking at the FBI’s uniform crime reports and other homicide records between 1994 and 2012, which is the most recent data available.

“In the border regions we see a drop in homicides, assaults and robberies. When we look to homicides in more detail we see a 41 percent drop in drug-law related homicides,” Floris Zoutman, a co-author of the new study, told Cannabis News Box. “These are homicides that occur during the violation of a narcotic drug law such as drug trafficking or manufacturing. All of this is consistent with the idea that Mexican drug cartels are losing influence, or at the very least, become less violent.”

Zoutman said legalizing social use cannabis would likely have an even larger effect, but they did not study that. She said the fact social use allows even more legal cannabis to enter the market means it would likely impact cartel activity even more.

While Attorney General Jeff Sessions is targeting cannabis partially because he believes it is dangerous, this study seems to show keeping it illegal is far more dangerous.

“If we only consider the effects on violent crime, recent steps to recriminalize marijuana by the Department of Justice are clearly a step in the wrong direction,” Zoutman said.

Beyond the effects on crime, Zoutman said it’s very expensive to enforce drug laws, while taxing cannabis actually creates revenues. Overall, it appears there are multiple benefits to legalization and multiple problems that arise from prohibition. The more the cartels control the cannabis market, the more likely it is that a state will experience higher rates of violent crime and other problems.