Marijuana legalisation causing violent crime to fall in US states, study finds

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Marijuana legalisation causing violent crime to fall in US states, study finds

The legalisation of marijuana for medical purposes has led to a significant reduction in violent crime in several US states bordering Mexico, according to new research.

The study, published in The Economic Journal, found that the rate of violent crime – including robberies, murders and aggravated assaults – fell by 12.5 per cent in counties close to the border after the introduction of medical marijuana laws (MMLs).

“MMLs allow people to grow and cultivate marijuana plants legally within the US,” Professor Evelina Gavrilova, one of the study’s authors, told The Independent.

“This means that people don’t need to buy illegal marijuana anymore so drug trafficking organisations (DTOs) have far fewer customers.”

DTOs have long been a major contributor to violent crime in US border states.

“Their namesake activity – the smuggling of illicit drugs – is known to be paired with extreme levels of violence, which DTOs use to contest the revenues in the drug market,” according to the study.

With these organisations now less active in the border regions due to falling demand, instances of violence have also fallen. “As revenues decrease, so does the incentive to invest in violent activity,” the paper says.

Robberies have decreased by 19 per cent in US border states which have adopted MMLs, murders by 10 per cent and assaults by nine per cent.

The biggest impact is on drug-law related murders, which have fallen by nearly 41 per cent. Countries closest to the border have seen the most significant reductions.

Eight US states have legalised the recreational use of marijuana, including California, one of four states that border Mexico. Two of the others – New Mexico and Arizona – both have MMLs.

Most illicit drugs in the US are supplied through Mexico. Every year, around six billion dollars crosses the border back to Mexico as profit for DTOs.

The market for marijuana is the largest drug market in the US and has always been a “lucrative cash crop” for DTOs, according to the study.

“It’s very likely that they are not going to simply give up on this market,” said Professor Gavrilova. “There are reports that some DTOs are starting to grow their own opium, which could be used to produce heroin that is smuggled into the US.

“They could also enter the legal marijuana trade themselves by setting up farms in a border state.”

Although MMLs do not allow for recreational use of the drug, “there can be a low threshold for prescription, depending on the state,” according to Professor Gavrilova.

This means that – even in those states without full legalisation – the consumption of marijuana is virtually decriminalised, she explained.

This accounts for the rapid fall in demand for illegal marijuana, even in states such as Arizona and New Mexico, where recreational use has not been legalised.

Marijuana legalisation causing violent crime to fall in US states, study finds
An Israeli smokes a marijuana joint in Jerusalem on April 20, 2017 during a rally opposite the Knesset to celebrate 420 and express defiance of current laws
Marijuana legalisation causing violent crime to fall in US states, study finds
An Israeli smokes a marijuana joint in Jerusalem during a rally at the Rose garden, to celebrate 420 and to express their defiance of current law
Marijuana legalisation causing violent crime to fall in US states, study finds
aelis pass around a marijuana joint in Jerusalem during a rally at the Rose garden, to celebrate 420 and to express their defiance of current laws
Marijuana legalisation causing violent crime to fall in US states, study finds
An Israeli girl poses with a mock marijuana joint in Jerusalem during a rally at the Rose garden, to celebrate 420 and to express their defiance of current laws
Marijuana legalisation causing violent crime to fall in US states, study finds
Sitting in small groups on mats shaded by trees in the Rose Garden just across from the Knesset, participants lit up as the clock struck 4:20 for the local version of the traditional worldwide April 20 pro-marijuana events, known as ‘420’ rallies
Marijuana legalisation causing violent crime to fall in US states, study finds
An Israeli smokes a marijuana joint in Jerusalem during a rally at the Rose garden
Marijuana legalisation causing violent crime to fall in US states, study finds
A man displays a large container of cannabis during the Denver 420 Rally at Civic Center Park in Denver, Colorado. The rally, held annually, is a celebration of both the legalisation of cannabis and cannabis culture. Colorado is one of twenty-six U.S. states along with the District of Columbia that has legalised the use of cannabis either recreationally or medically
Marijuana legalisation causing violent crime to fall in US states, study finds
Sitting in small groups on mats shaded by trees in the Rose Garden just across from the Knesset, participants lit up as the clock struck 4:20 for the local version of the traditional worldwide April 20 pro-marijuana events, known as ‘420’ rallies
Marijuana legalisation causing violent crime to fall in US states, study finds
Mo Banez, of Austin, Texas, lights a joint during the Denver 420 Rally at Civic Center Park in Denver, Colorado
Marijuana legalisation causing violent crime to fall in US states, study finds
Various cannabis paraphernalia on display at a vendor’s stall during the Denver 420 Rally at Civic Center Park in Denver, Colorado
Marijuana legalisation causing violent crime to fall in US states, study finds
Nic Ruhl takes a pull on a giant hand rolled joint at precisely 4:20pm MDT during the Denver 420 Rally at Civic Center Park in Denver, Colorado
Marijuana legalisation causing violent crime to fall in US states, study finds
Kevin Barron and Lasean Moore of Raleigh, North Carolina, share a joint during the Denver 420 Rally at Civic Center Park in Denver, Colorado
Marijuana legalisation causing violent crime to fall in US states, study finds
People attend the Denver 420 Rally at Civic Center Park in Denver, Colorado
Marijuana legalisation causing violent crime to fall in US states, study finds
Thousands of people gather to smoke marijuana during the ‘420 Santiago’rally in front of the La Moneda presidential palace in Santiago
Marijuana legalisation causing violent crime to fall in US states, study finds
Adam Eidinger, co-founder of DCMJ, hands out free marijuana joints to DC residents who worked on Capitol Hill as part of the 1st Annual Joint Session to mark ‘4/20’ day and promote legalising marijuana on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC
Marijuana legalisation causing violent crime to fall in US states, study finds
Police arrest Rachel Ramone Donlan after she handed out free marijuana joints to DC residents who worked on Capitol Hill as part of the 1st Annual Joint Session to mark ‘4/20’ day and promote legalising marijuana on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC
Marijuana legalisation causing violent crime to fall in US states, study finds
Police arrest Rachel Ramone Donlan after she handed out free marijuana joints to DC residents who worked on Capitol Hill as part of the 1st Annual Joint Session to mark ‘4/20’ day and promote legalising marijuana on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC
Marijuana legalisation causing violent crime to fall in US states, study finds
People play with a mock marijuana joint during a 4/20 party to demand legalisation and to celebrate marijuana culture outside the Senate building in Mexico City, Mexico
Marijuana legalisation causing violent crime to fall in US states, study finds
Demonstrators smoke marijuana during the ‘4/20 Santiago’ rally in favour of legalisation in front of the La Moneda presidential palace in Santiago, as part of the Global Marijuana March which is being held in hundreds of cities worldwide
Marijuana legalisation causing violent crime to fall in US states, study finds
A man smokes marijuana during the annual 4/20 marijuana rally on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Marijuana legalisation causing violent crime to fall in US states, study finds
A woman smokes marijuana on Parliament Hill on 4/20 in Ottawa, Ontario. Polling released showed strong support in Canada for a government drive to legalise recreational use of marijuana, but many would like the proposed minimum age for consumption to be raised. Sixty-three percent of respondents told the Angus Reid Institute they support legalisation
Marijuana legalisation causing violent crime to fall in US states, study finds
James Reed smokes a joint during the Denver 420 Rally at Civic Center Park in Denver, Colorado
Marijuana legalisation causing violent crime to fall in US states, study finds
People sign a 4/20 sign on Parliament Hill on in Ottawa, Ontario
Marijuana legalisation causing violent crime to fall in US states, study finds
A lady smokes marijuana on Parliament Hill on 4/20 in Ottawa, Ontario
Marijuana legalisation causing violent crime to fall in US states, study finds
A man wears a marijuana leaf mask during the annual 4/20 cannabis culture celebration at Sunset Beach in Vancouver, British Columbia

With their study, Professor Gavrilova and her research partners are hoping to draw attention to what they see as a highly beneficial but often-ignored consequence of legalisation.

Imran Rasul, Professor of Economics at University College London, agrees that the study usefully highlights “some important, unintended consequences of drug-related policies”.

“Policymakers tend to focus on direct impacts rather than other potential impacts,” he told The Independent.

While some of these potential impacts can be negative – house prices can sometimes fall in areas with high cannabis use – others, such as a falling crime rate, can be extremely positive, Professor Rasul explained.

Individual US states could soon lose control over marijuana policy, however. Earlier this month, US Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded an Obama-era directive that promised an easing of raids and other federal enforcement actions as long as states had enacted “strong and effective regulatory systems”.

Some critics believe such a move could lead to a new surge in drug-related violent crime.

“Jeff Sessions has shown a preference for allowing all commerce in marijuana to take place in the black market, which will inevitably bring the spike in violence he mistakenly attributers to marijuana itself,” Dana Rohrbacher, an Orange County Republican in the House of Representatives, said in a statement.

“He is doing the bidding of an out-of-date law enforcement establishment that wants to see a perpetual weed war”.

The move by Mr Sessions comes just a few months after a survey showed that 64 per cent of Americans were in favour of the legalisation of cannabis – the highest level of support since the survey began nearly five decades ago.

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