Is Marijuana Legalization Driving Increases in Violent Crime?

The legalization of marijuana has not resulted in a reduction in crime, as we were told it would. The numbers show the results have been quite the opposite. In 2012, Colorado and Washington were the first states to legalize recreational use and possession of marijuana and eight states and the District of Columbia have followed suit. A review of the crime statistics cast doubt on proponents’ claim that legalization reduces violent crime; to the contrary, homicides have generally increased in pro-marijuana jurisdictions.

In Denver, the homicide rate has steadily climbed from 36 in 2013 to a peak of 67 in 2018. Seattle had 19 homicides in 2013, then the rate increased every year except 2016, reaching a peak in 2018 of 31 cases. Even the District of Columbia has experienced a resurgence of violence — reaching 160 homicides in 2018 after seeing a historically low 116 homicide cases in 2017. Though too early in the year to make a meaningful projection, homicides spiked more than 100 percent in January 2019, as compared with January 2018.

It turns out that legalization of marijuana doesn’t eliminate the illicit black market, but may actually increase competition among rival factions of black-market dealers. State regulation, taxes, cultivation, and supply chain logistics force prices much higher for legal pot than its illegal and unregulated competition. The illegal market persists because most users aren’t inclined to pay premium prices just to avoid committing a very low-level transgression that police are increasingly being asked to ignore.

Downward pressure on prices of illegal pot in legalized states is explained by reduced police enforcement of marijuana laws. The “risk premium” that artificially inflates prices of prohibited substances has been virtually eliminated. At the same time, it’s likely that demand for pot has increased in legalized states because users’ fear of adverse legal consequences has subsided and users from prohibition states flock to legalized states for legal or lower cost marijuana.

The bottom line? Despite growing political and cultural momentum in its favor, legalizing marijuana has unintended economic and social consequences. States beginning to consider full legalization would be wise to take a critical look at the increased rates of violent crime in Colorado, Washington, and the District of Columbia.

Frank T. Luciano is a highly successful and experienced drug crime attorney operating in multiple areas throughout Northern New Jersey, including Hackensack, Jersey City, Elmwood Park and Fort Lee. In nearly 40 years as a criminal defense attorney, there is almost no legal situation that Mr. Luciano has not seen and successfully navigated his clients through.

Give yourself the best chance at a positive legal outcome by contacting Frank T. Luciano’s New Jersey law office immediately at 973-471-0004.

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