Study shows the effects of recreational marijuana legislation on crime rates

Published Dec 19, 2019 01:00 p.m. ET
iStock / Fokusiert

Recreational marijuana laws and regulations have shown little positive effects on the crime rate in some states, including Washington and Colorado, while other states report different findings. These states suggest that legalizing marijuana has had little if any positive effects on crime in their states.

It was suggested that the legalization of recreational marijuana would decrease crime. This statement was directed towards crimes in general, but it specifically included those associated with marijuana. Some examples of those included illicit market production, sales, and distribution of cannabis. The evidence from thefts and burglaries suggests that most were conducted to secure funds for the purchasing of marijuana.

It is suggested from some early reports in Washington that, in actuality, crime associated with assault, vehicular offenses, theft, and harassment were on the rise. However, this was not the result here as this studies numbers indicated the opposite. However, recent studies indicate that legalizing recreational marijuana has had little impact on the rates of violence occurring; a federal agency funded this study.

The study was conducted utilizing a "quasi-experimental multi-group interrupted time-series design." This would provide stronger evidence that if recreational marijuana influenced crime, the study suggested it was short-lived.

One has to wonder if Federal marijuana legalization would change the outlook

As it is today, Federal marijuana legalization is not in effect. The United States Federal government still deems marijuana to be illegal. Studies have shown that when dispensaries are opened, there is a decrease in crime-related issues by 17 crimes within a 10,000 person community resident base. This, when the math is done, represents a 19 percent decline in crime.


Clearly, the often-cited justification for the legalization of recreational marijuana is positive in the reduction of crime has not materialized. The reports indicate that non-violet crimes, including trespassing criminal mischief and public disorder along with simple assault, decreased.

Drug-related incidents were also noted as declining. However, associated cannabis offenses did not change in numbers when dispensaries were opened in the area. It is interesting to note; there was a slight decrease in cocaine and heroin offenses.

Studies seem to indicate that medical marijuana and recreational product dispensaries seem to attract lower crime rates in their areas. This is in comparison to legal alcohol and tobacco establishments. Studies have shown crime may be decreasing in areas where recreational marijuana is legally able to be purchased. Visible property security enforcement, like security cameras, have shown to be a major deterrent for crime.

So, to answer the question of how cannabis is affecting the crime space, it is probably safe to say that it is a wait and see kind of situation. Canada is set to launch part 2 of the legal marijuana path, this being the ability to purchase edibles, lotions, and concentrates.  We need to be patient and see if this part of the cannabis journey for Canada, at least, will be a part of the crime space, whether increasing or decreasing it. It is interesting to note that with this stage two cannabis delivery in Canada, the question of vehicle crimes involving cannabis may increase.

No increase in impaired driving rates since marijuana legalization


Related posts