Opponents of medical marijuana envision all kinds of insidious ways that legalizing the drug might lead to crime, says the Washington Post. Make marijuana more accessible, and more people will use it. If more people use it, more will tumble through the weed “gateway” to cocaine, or worse. Crime data suggest there’s no evidence that legalizing the drug for medicinal purposes leads to an increase in crime. In fact, states that have legalized it appear to have seen some reductions in the rates of homicide and assault.
These findings come from a nationwide study puboished this week in the journal PLOS One. Researchers at the University of Texas at Dallas looked at FBI data between 1990 and 2006, a span during which 11 states legalized medical marijuana. Throughout the time period, crime was falling throughout the U.S., but a close look at the differences between the 11 states – and within the states that legalized the drug before and after the law’s passage – shows no noticeable local uptick among a whole suite of crimes: homicide, rape, robbery, assault, burglary, larceny, and auto theft. The robbery and burglary findings are particularly interesting, as those are the crimes most likely outside of medical dispensaries. The results don’t definitely prove that medical marijuana has no effect on crime or that it might reduce it.