Researchers from the University of California San Diego recently conducted a study on the impact of adult-use decriminalization and legalization of marijuana on possession arrests. They discovered that legalization was linked to a significant decrease in marijuana possession arrests among individuals in legal states that decriminalized the drug prior to legalizing it. This is in addition to observing that the reduction in arrests was considerably higher in states that had shifted to legalization from criminalization without decriminalizing marijuana.
For their study, the researchers obtained data on marijuana possession arrests from the Uniform Crime Reporting program, with a primary focus on data from 31 states in the period between 2010–2019. The researchers carried out an analysis of this data, noting that of all the states included, only nine had implemented legalization during the period of study. Four of the nine states had legalized marijuana before they decriminalized it while the remaining five had legalized the drug after decriminalization.
The researchers observed that cannabis possession arrests had declined by more than 76% in the four states that legalized the drug before they decriminalized it. This was quite high, especially in comparison to the 40% decrease in arrest rates recorded in the five states that legalized cannabis after decriminalizing it.
The researchers stated that their findings suggest that legalizing marijuana without decriminalization first substantially affected the decline in arrest rates than legalizing the drug after decriminalizing it. They then noted that legalization was also linked to a further decrease in arrest rates, even after a state decriminalized marijuana. The reduction in marijuana possession arrests among White and Black people after legalization confirms this.
While both White and Black people have similar rates of marijuana use, Black people are more than three times as likely to be arrested for marijuana possession compared to White people.
The researchers observed that states which legalized marijuana before decriminalizing it recorded an almost 78% reduction in arrest rates among Black adults and 74.6% among White individuals. These figures are very high, especially when compared to the 41% and 35% decline in arrest rates among White and Black individuals respectively in states that decriminalized marijuana before legalizing it.
In their report, the investigators note that while their research compares decriminalization and legalization of marijuana purely from the perspective of a decline in possession arrests, it has a number of limitations. These limitations include the fact that some of the data used may not be accurate and that the data obtained from the Uniform Crime Reporting program is entered on a voluntary basis.
The study’s findings were reported in the “Journal of American Medical Association.”
Advocates have often argued that ending prohibition and allowing licensed companies such as Flora Growth Corp. (NASDAQ: FLGC) to operate legally has far-reaching benefits, and this study highlights yet another way through which this is true.
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