Tag Archives: pot decriminalization

Pot and Consequences

This election is driving me to drink.

If I were younger, if I’d ever learned to smoke and inhale, and if marijuana were legal, it would probably drive me to pot. Fewer calories.

Speaking of legalization…..Advocates and opponents of marijuana decriminalization have generally based their arguments on theory and supposition; they’ve exchanged “I think this will happen” scenarios, since there were no jurisdictions from which actual data could be gathered.

That has now changed. And the Shorenstein Center’s Journalist Resources has helpfully compiled studies reporting actual–as opposed to theorized–results.The compilation is timely: this November, voters in at least nine states will decide whether to legalize marijuana for medical or recreational use.

Most states that have relaxed previous prohibitions have done so by making pot available for medicinal purposes. But the distinction between medical and recreation use is not as significant as we might imagine:

Most research on the link between marijuana and crime finds that medical marijuana laws (often abbreviated as MML) cause a general uptick in the use and availability of marijuana — beyond the patients who are prescribed the drug. “The legalization of marijuana for medicinal purposes approaches de facto legalization of marijuana for recreational purposes,” write D. Mark Anderson of Montana State University and Daniel I. Rees of the University of Colorado Denver in the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management. By examining pre- and post-legalization in these MML states, they can “make predictions about what will happen in” states that legalize marijuana for recreational use. 

So what does happen when marijuana use is legalized? What about predictions that crime will rise?

In widely cited research, Robert G. Morris of the University of Texas and colleagues see crime fall in every state that has introduced MML. Using FBI data on seven types of crime across states with and without MML, they dismiss concerns about rising crime.

“MML is not predictive of higher crime rates and may be related to reductions in rates of homicide and assault,” Morris and colleagues write in the study, published in PLoS One in 2014. That may be because people seem to use alcohol less when they have access to pot: “Given the relationship between alcohol and violent crime, it may turn out that substituting marijuana for alcohol leads to minor reductions in violent crimes.”…

Economists Edward M. Shepard and Paul R. Blackley of Le Moyne College find that medical marijuana is associated with significant drops in violent crime. Looking at crime data from 11 states in the west, seven of which had medical marijuana laws before 2009, they see “no evidence of significant, negative spillover effects from MMLs on crime.” Instead, they suspect a fall in the involvement of criminal organizations after marijuana is legalized for medical use and conclude, “MMLs likely produce net benefits for society.”

Looking at crime data before and after the depenalization of marijuana in the United Kingdom in 2004, Nils Braakmann and Simon Jones of Newcastle University suggest most types of crime, risky behavior and violence fall. But they observe a 5 percent to 7 percent increase in property crimes among 15- to 17 year olds.

Opponents of decriminalization predicted increased traffic fatalities from impaired driving, but according to the research, during the first year following changes in the law, traffic fatalities decrease between 8 percent and 11 percent.

Other findings: there is a modest increase in pot use among young people, but not older cohorts. Suicide rates fall. Racial profiling declines. So do opioid overdoses.

Medical cannabis laws are associated with significantly lower state-level opioid overdose mortality rates.” Patients seem to be using these as substitutes, and marijuana is far less addictive and dangerous than drugs derived from the opium poppy.

And then there’s this: one study found that the U.S. could take in some $12 billion in new tax revenues by regulating recreational marijuana.

We sure could use the money.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I think I’ll pour myself a drink……