A new study reveals that crime rates dropped in Denver after legalization of cannabis.
Predictions from pundits that legalization would turn Colorado into a crime-ridden wasteland are wrong. A recent study proves that crime rates in Denver fell after marijuana was legalized.
In fact, the study also shows that areas with dispensaries saw substantial drops in crime. The team analyzed Denver crime data collected from January 2013 through December 2016. Recreational cannabis sales started in Colorado in 2014 after legalization.
The authors state in the abstract: “The results imply that an additional dispensary in a neighborhood leads to a reduction of 17 crimes per month per 10,000 residents, which corresponds to roughly a 19 percent decline relative to the average crime rate over the sample period.”
The team also found that the drops in crime rates are highly localized. In other words, nearby neighborhoods don’t see the same benefit as those with dispensaries.
Different studies, different results
Another study from earlier this year found that after legalization of recreational cannabis rates near dispensaries in Denver increased at first, but then dropped. The researchers also found that the correlation between dispensaries and crime weakened significantly as time passed.
In the more recent study, the strongest drop in crime rates were for nonviolent offenses. These include many public-order crimes such as like criminal mischief and trespassing.
Violent crime also dropped, though this wasn’t statistically significant. The researchers link this principally to fewer aggravated assaults.
The studies do show somewhat different results. However, the disparity is likely down to differing methodologies, including different data sources and geographical areas. And while certain crimes related to dispensaries persist, they are not especially common.
Legalization: Not in my backyard?
In any event, the research shows that as dispensaries come in, law enforcement comes with them. This leads to an overall drop in crime rates that contradicts the ideas some people have about legalization.
For example, in November 2017, an editorial in the Colorado Springs Gazette called legalization an “embarrassing cautionary tale.” Specifically, the writer cited an increase in fatal traffic car accidents attributable to “high” driving, more homelessness, and increased drug violations in schools.
However, there is no evidence to support the high driving claim. Furthermore, the argument about drug violations in schools is patently false, citing years before legalization. Finally, although homelessness did increase during that time, experts say that had nothing to do with legalization.
The bottom line? This latest research confirms what we already know. Legalization does not cause crime to increase, and there is no real evidence to support that contention. As more states consider legalization, they can do so with research backing them up.