For years, law enforcement and opponents of marijuana prohibition have argued that legalizing the controversial plant could lead to a surge in crime in neighborhoods hosting retail marijuana stores and spill over into neighboring states that still prohibit it. There have even been a few studies showing that this is indeed true, but according to researchers going through county-level crime data in municipalities neighboring two states which legalized marijuana, these studies may have been skewed. Ultimately, they found scant evidence that legalizing marijuana increased crime rates.
The research was conducted by Guangzhen Wu of the University of Utah, Francis D. Boateng of the University of Mississippi and Thomas Roney, an economic and statistical consultant based in Texas. The study, published in the Journal of Drug Issues looked at before and after crime data in Washington and Colorado, the first two states to pass adult-use cannabis laws in 2012, seeking to find out how neighboring states were affected after the passage of adult-use cannabis laws. After studying data on crimes such as robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny, and motor vehicle theft, the researchers found that legalizing cannabis may have actually reduced certain major crimes in nearby jurisdictions.
“We did not detect any increases in the rates of multiple types of crimes in border counties of the non-legalized states bordering Colorado and Washington,” wrote the authors of the study. “Moreover, we observed a substantial reduction in certain types of crimes, namely property crime, larceny, and simple assault, in border counties in the Colorado region. This finding challenges the argument made by the opponents of legalization that marijuana legalization would increase crime.”
Existing research proving that legalizing marijuana increases crime rates is skewed and doesn’t account for all variables, the researchers say. Due to federal prohibition, banking institutions avoid working with the cannabis industry, forcing retail marijuana stores to operate on a cash-only basis. “As scholars have reasoned, the criminogenic effect of recreational marijuana dispensaries is largely attributable to the fact that marijuana sale is a cash-and-carry business, which exposes both the business and customers to criminal victimization,” says the study.
The researchers argue that decriminalization reduces crime instead, stating in the study that it shrinks “the underground marijuana market that is believed to be fertile soil for violent crime.” In fact, the data from Colorado suggested a ‘crime reducing effect’ of recreational marijuana legalization in Colorado on neighboring states. They concluded that recreational marijuana legalization in a state may not bring about negative consequences on crime in neighboring states, which challenges the assertions made by public officials in these neighboring states arguing a crime-inducing effect of legalization.
Analysts say that industry participants like Sugarmade, Inc. (OTCQB: SGMD) will be glad that the misconceptions about the marijuana industry are being dismantled, one at a time, by independent researchers.
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