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Case Studies Claim No Link Between Medical Marijuana and Crime

Despite opponents long arguing that pot increases violent behavior, numerous studies have shown that crime actually decreases in areas where legal weed thrives.

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By David Konow

04/01/14

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Many who regularly smoke marijuana would argue that violent crimes don’t happen as a result of smoking too much pot, and that it is a far less destructive drug than alcohol. Now a study from the University of Texas appears to prove that very fact, despite opponents long arguing the opposite, while also showing that legal weed may actually have reduced crime across the country.

The findings were gathered by Robert Morris, the associate professor of criminology at the University of Texas, and were published in a journal article on the website plosone.org. Since medical marijuana was first approved almost twenty years ago, many feared it would lead to more lawlessness. But as Morris told the Huffington Post, it is his belief that “medical marijuana legalization poses no threat of increased violent crime.”

“The social ramifications of marijuana legalization have been hotly debated for at least four decades,” Morris wrote in the journal article. “The issue addressed in this article is whether MML [medical marijuana legalization] has the effect of increasing crime. “

Morris drew from sources that included the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports from 1990-2006, a period when medical marijuana became legal in eleven states, as well as state websites, the Bureau of Economic Analysis, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

In reporting on the study, The Washington Post noted that in the FBI studies from 1990-2006, “crime was broadly falling throughout the United States. But a closer look at the differences between these states further shows no noticeable local uptick among a whole suite of crimes: homicide, rape, robbery, assault, burglary, larceny, and auto theft.”

Another study from Beau Kilmer, who wrote the book Marijuana Legalization: What Everyone Needs to Know, was also cited in Morris' report. As Kilmer stated, “The rate of marijuana use is higher among [delinquent] offenders than among non-offenders, but the conventional wisdom in the academic community is that both behaviors are results of the same common causes, rather than that marijuana causes criminal offending…Marijuana use by itself does not tend to induce violent crime; in fact, some studies suggest the opposite effect.” In his study, Kilmer pointed to a review from the National Academy of Sciences that mentioned how THC could “decrease aggressive and violent behavior,” rather than cause it.

Another report appearing on westword.com also debunked the the marijuana-crime myth, in which pot dispensaries in Denver were studied for a variety of violent crimes including robbery, homicide, and rape. Citing a study from the University of Colorado, journalist William Breathes wrote that a local marijuana shop didn’t have “any more impact on its neighborhood than a coffee shop or drugstore,” while a similar study on a dispensary in Sacramento proved that crime did not increase in the neighborhood once the business was operational.

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