E Point Perfect

Legalising cannabis does not contribute to an increase in crime

Researchers in America have analysed crime data from Colorado and Washington to produce a study which shows cannabis legalisation does not lead to an increase in crime.

In 2013 Washington and Colorado became the first states to legalise cannabis use for all adults over the age of 21, since then a further 19 states have followed suit. 

The study was conducted in affiliation with the University of Colorado and Boise State University in Idaho. Researchers used crime data from Colorado and Washington State, comparing it to a synthetic data model produced from states that hadn’t legalised cannabis.

The researchers made this comment on the results, “State level data covering 2000–2019 were analysed using the synthetic control method to find that legalising marijuana for recreational use in Colorado and Washington was generally not associated with variations in index crime rates”.

Fears of increased crime are often touted by anti-cannabis tabloids and journalists, such as Peter Hitchins. Hitchins, a self described conservative, regularly makes unfounded claims that cannabis will lead to greater law breaking. In one example, Hitchins implored followers to sign a failed petition for the UK Government to investigate a link between knife crime and cannabis consumption.

Previous studies into legal cannabis and crime have reached similar conclusions. One study explored the question of cannabis legalisation and crime increase in Uruguay, which became the first country in the world to legalise cannabis for adult use in 2013 under former president José Mujica. The study concluded that “The decriminalisation of marijuana in Uruguay had no effect on the measures of crime analysed.”

Despite results from such studies, governments across the world continue to spend large amounts of money on fighting the so-called war on drugs, with little success in stopping the supply or use of them. 

A 2022 report published by Transform found the enforcement by the police of drug laws was a significant cost to the public purse. Their report found that £1.4 billion is spent annually enforcing drug laws in England alone, with £690 million spent on drug-related police enforcement costs, and an additional £733 million across the criminal justice system (courts, prisons, probation etc).

Researchers who analysed the data from Washington State and Colorado on the effect of cannabis legislation on crime rates said this in conclusion, These findings substantiate prior research. Increased crime rates should not be a primary concern as more states move to adopt recreational marijuana use legislation. Instead, the benefits to states via harm reduction, increased tax revenue, and a more efficient allocation of policing resources”.

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