Where is Colorado’s predicted crime wave from legalisation?

Colorado legalised the sale of cannabis and the opponents predicted a massive crime wave as a result.

German Lopez at Vox explains reality vs scaremongering.

When Colorado legalized recreational marijuana sales, Denver embraced the opportunity with open arms.

The city is now home to more than 62 percent of all Colorado recreational marijuana retailers, who cashed in on $14 million in sales in January alone.

Other cities weren’t so eager: heeding legalization opponents’ safety concerns, several pushed off licensing retail sales. Some banned retail sales altogether.

“There will be many harmful consequences,” Douglas County Sheriff David Weaver warned in a September 2012 statement. “Expect more crime, more kids using marijuana, and pot for sale everywhere.”

One California sheriff went on Denver television to warn that, as a result of marijuana in his county, “thugs put on masks, they come to your house, they kick in your door. They point guns at you and say, ‘Give me your marijuana, give me your money.'”

Three months into its legalization experiment, Denver isn’t seeing a widespread rise in crime. Violent and property crimes actually decreased slightly, and some cities are taking a second look at allowing marijuana sales.  

“We had folks, kind of doomsayers, saying, ‘Oh my gosh, we’re going to have riots in the streets the day they open,'” Denver City Council President Mary Beth Susman, a supporter of legal marijuana, says. “But it was so quiet.”

violent_crime_in_denver

Denver’s crime data shows a slight decrease in the past year: violent crime in January and February fell by 2.4 percent compared to the first two months of 2013.

Property crime has dropped too, showing that alarmism yet again has failed.

Other research also supports the anecdotal evidence coming out of Colorado.

Outside of Colorado, most research on crime and marijuana looks at legalization for medicinal purposes.One study published in PLOS ONE concluded the expansion of medical marijuana did not lead to more violent or property crime, and medical marijuana legalization might in fact correlate with a reduction in some crimes.

Researcher Robert Morris suggests that taking marijuana purchases out of an illicit market could reduce crime overall. “Perhaps there’s additional crime associated with the criminal marketplace to begin with,” he says.

Alternatively, crime could decrease if people began substituting alcohol with marijuana. “We know there’s a pretty strong link between alcohol misuse and crime, particularly in a person of violence,” Morris says. “There’s not as much of a correlation between marijuana use and crimes.”

Time to get sensible, and end reefer madness. The evidence strongly supports legalisation and there is almost no evidence to support continued criminalisation of cannabis.


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As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story. When he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

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