Study: Legalizing Marijuana “Results in a Substantial Decrease in Rates of Intimate Partner Violence”

A recent study from Georgetown University has found that the legalization of recreational marijuana is associated with a significant decrease in intimate partner violence (IPV).

Published by a researcher at Georgetown University, the study titled The Impact of Recreational Marijuana Legalization on Intimate Partner Violence utilizes data from the National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS) covering the seven years after Washington and Colorado became the first states to legalize marijuana for recreational use.

The researcher analyzed the effect of state marijuana legalization on reported rates of IPV, finding a substantial decrease in IPV incidents following legalization. The study employed various statistical models to control for multiple factors, including median income, unemployment rate, median age, marriage rate, poverty rate, education level, and the prevalence of heavy drinking.

The key finding of the study is that recreational marijuana legalization (RML) results in a notable reduction in IPV rates. In the simplest model, the legalization was linked to 56.6 fewer reported incidents of IPV per 100,000 people. This effect was even more pronounced in the most comprehensive model, which accounted for state and year fixed effects, showing a reduction of 101.2 incidents per 100,000 people.

The study found that while median income and age were significant predictors of IPV rates, poverty and education level were not. Higher median income and older median age were associated with lower rates of IPV. Specifically, a $1,000 increase in median income led to one fewer incident of IPV, while a one-year increase in median age was associated with 2.7 to 6.3 fewer incidents per 100,000 people.

Marriage rates also played a significant role in reducing IPV. An increase of one percentage point in the marriage rate resulted in 7.2 fewer incidents of IPV per 100,000 people. This finding aligns with previous research suggesting that married individuals may have stronger social support networks, which can mitigate factors leading to IPV.

Unexpectedly, the study found that in states without legal recreational marijuana, an increase in heavy drinking was associated with a decrease in IPV. However, in states with RML, the relationship between heavy drinking and IPV was reversed, suggesting that marijuana legalization may alter the dynamics of substance use and its impact on IPV.

The study’s full abstract states:

State laws governing marijuana usage have been liberalizing rapidly in recent decades. With nearly half of all US states legalizing recreational marijuana as of this writing, the full impact of these policy changes is still being understood. The potential effect of recreational marijuana legalization on intimate partner violence has been researched, but has yet to be conclusively determined. With recent data from the National Incident-Based Reporting System, this paper analyzes the effect of state marijuana legalization on reported rates of intimate partner violence. Using data from 2013 to 2019, I find that legalization of recreational marijuana results in a substantial decrease in rates of intimate partner violence.

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