So far, at least, the legalization of recreational marijuana in our own Colorado hasn’t led to a crime wave. Excerpt:
The Colorado Division of Criminal Justice Office of Research and Statistics released “Impacts of Marijuana Legalization in Colorado,” a report that analyzes data on marijuana-related topics including crime, impaired driving, hospitalizations, and emergency room visits, usage rates, effects on youth and more.
State lawmakers ordered the study in 2013 after Colorado voters passed Amendment 64, which legalized the retail sale and possession of recreational marijuana for adults older than 21.
“It is difficult to draw conclusions about the potential effects of marijuana legalization and commercialization on public safety, public health or youth outcomes, and this may always be the case due to the lack of historical data,” Reed wrote in the report.
All kinds of things could affect future data, he said.
“The decreasing social stigma regarding marijuana use could lead individuals to be more likely to report use on surveys and also to health workers in emergency departments and poison control centers, making marijuana use appear to increase when perhaps it has not,” Reed wrote.
Here’s another thing that could affect future data: The drying up of the profit margin for gangs and illegal dealers could result in a decrease of the crime rate. So far, that remains to be seen, and the high rate of taxation for rec-weed keeps some incentive for a black market:
Data suggests that law enforcement and prosecutors are aggressively pursuing cases against black-market activity. The quantity of cases filed for serious marijuana-related crimes has remained consistent with pre-legalization levels; however, organized crime cases have generally increased since 2008.
Felony marijuana court case filings (conspiracy, manufacturing, distribution, and possession with intent to sell) declined from 2008 to 2014 but increased from 2015 through 2017.
• Colorado State Patrol DUI cases overall were down 15 percent from 2014 to 2017.
• The percentage of Colorado State Patrol citations with marijuana-only impairment has stayed steady, at around 7 percent. The percentage of Colorado State Patrol citations with any marijuana nexus rose from 12 percent in 2012 to 17 percent in 2016 and then dropped to 15 percent in 2017.
This post-mortem of marijuana legalization is interesting, but my argument for legalization is based not on practical matters but on liberty. It’s not the government’s responsibility to keep you form making bad decisions; it’s also not the government’s responsibility to shield you from the consequences of those bad decisions. In most ways marijuana is no better or worse than alcohol. When used responsibly and in moderation, it’s not a problem; when abused, it is.
But citizens, not politicians, should be making those decisions. In Colorado, we’ve moved in that direction, and so far, most of the dire predictions of banners haven’t materialized. But then, in almost any matter of public policy, very few of those dire predictions ever do.