Study: Marijuana Legalization “Not Associated With Variations in Index Crime Rates”

Legalizing recreational marijuana at the state level doesn’t have a significant impact on crime rates, according to a new study published in the Journal of Drug Issues.

For the study researchers affiliated with the University of Colorado and Boise State University compared crime data in Colorado and Washington – the first two states to legalize marijuana – to a synthetic control over a ten-year period (2010-2019).

“[L]egalizing marijuana for recreational use in Colorado and Washington was generally not associated with variations in index crime rates”, states the study. “These findings substantiate prior research.”

Because of this, researchers state that “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 ought to be more of a consideration for states when passing recreational marijuana legislation.”

The study is titled Crime in a Time of Cannabis: Estimating the Effect of Legalizing Marijuana on Crime Rates in Colorado and Washington Using the Synthetic Control Method. Its full abstract can be found below.

Abstract

The legalization of marijuana for recreational use continues to expand across America. Colorado and Washington were the first states to legalize marijuana in 2012. A primary concern regarding legalization is how these policy changes affect crime rates. Researchers have begun to estimate the effect marijuana legalization has had on crime rates. We extend this literature by using a different analytical approach. State level data covering years 2000–2019 were analyzed using the synthetic control method to find that legalizing marijuana for recreational use in Colorado and Washington was generally not associated with variations in index crime rates. 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 ought to be more of a consideration for states when passing recreational marijuana legislation.