Marijuana Regulation and Crime Rates

Adult use marijuana laws are not associated with an uptick overall criminal activity

  • "First-pass evidence is provided that the legalization of the cannabis market across US states is inducing a crime drop. We exploit the staggered legalization of recreational marijuana enacted by the adjacent states of Washington (end of 2012) and Oregon (end of 2014). Combining county-level difference-in-differences and spatial regression discontinuity designs, we find that the policy caused a significant reduction in rapes and property crimes on the Washington side of the border in 2013-2014 relative to the Oregon side and relative to the pre-legalization years 2010-2012. The legalization also increased consumption of marijuana and reduced consumption of other drugs and both ordinary and binge alcohol. ... The concern that legalizing cannabis for recreational purposes may increase crime occupies a prominent position in the public debate about drugs. Our analysis suggests that such a concern is not justified."
  • "There is evidence in this table that the legalization of recreational cannabis enacted in Washington caused a decrease in crime rates. The point estimates for rape, assault, robbery, burglary and theft are all negative. This conclusion is reinforced by the statistical significance of the drop in rapes and thefts. ... Our estimates reveal that the legalization decreased ... both ordinary alcohol and binge alcohol. ... These effects on consumption suggest that one of the mechanisms underlying the reduction in crime may be a substitution away from other drugs ... such as alcohol, which makes consumers more aggressive than if consuming cannabis."
  • "Since voters approved Initiative 502, FBI crime statistics show lower rates of violent crime in Washington than before legalization. According to the FBI data, in 2011 there were 295.6 violent offenses reported per 100,000 Washington residents. In 2015, the most recent full year of data available, that rate had fallen to 284.4 violent offenses per 100,000 people."
  • "[M]onthly crime rates from Denver, Colorado ... remain essentially constant after 2012 and 2014. ... Other cities in Colorado mirror those findings. ... [In Seattle, Washington,] both categories of crime (violent crime and property crime) declined steadily over the past 20 years, with no major deviations after marijuana liberalization. ... Monthly violent and property crime remained steady after legalization in Portland, Oregon. ... Elsewhere in Oregon, we see no discernible changes in crime trends before and after legalization or medical marijuana liberalization."
  • "[V]iolent crime and property crime in Denver ... dropped 10.6 percent [following legalization] compared to that same span one year earlier.. Homicides have dropped to less than half of last year's levels, and motor vehicle theft has shrunk by over one-third."

Medical cannabis regulatory laws are not associated with an uptick overall criminal activity

  • "The objective of this study is to investigate whether a particular element of MMLs, namely allowance for dispensaries, affects local crime and other indicators of marijuana misuse. We find no evidence that ordinances allowing for marijuana dispensaries lead to an increase in crime. In fact, we see some evidence of a reduction in property crime. ... Our study appears to reinforce the conclusions from other studies that fail to find an increase in the type of crime predicted by law enforcement. We find no effects on burglary, robberies, or assaults, which are the types of crimes one would expect if dispensaries were prime targets as a result of their holding large amounts of cash. ... Our findings indicate that policymakers should be careful in how they regulate the presence of dispensaries, while not jumping to the conclusion that dispensaries are clearly crime generating hot-spots. ... Our findings suggest that it is possible to regulate these markets and find a common ground between safety and access to medical marijuana."
  • "[T]he introduction of medical marijuana laws (MMLs) leads to a decrease in violent crime in states that border Mexico. The reduction in crime is strongest for counties close to the border (less than 350 kilometres) and for crimes that relate to drug trafficking. In addition, we find that MMLs in inland states lead to a reduction in crime in the nearest border state. Our results are consistent with the theory that decriminalisation of the production and distribution of marijuana leads to a reduction in violent crime in markets that are traditionally controlled by Mexican drug trafficking organizations."
  • "We do not find evidence that medical marijuana laws consistently affect violent and property crime. ... Our results suggest that liberalization of marijuana laws is unlikely to result in the substantial social cost that some politicians clearly fear."
  • "The central finding gleaned from the present study was that MML (medical marijuana legalization) is not predictive of higher crime rates and may be related to reductions in rates of homicide and assault, ... [R]obbery and burglary rates were unaffected by medicinal marijuana legislation, which runs counter to the claim that dispensaries and grow houses lead to an increase in victimization due to the opportunity structures linked to the amount of drugs and cash that are present. .... [T]his is in line with prior research suggesting that medical marijuana dispensaries may actually reduce crime in the immediate vicinity."

Retail cannabis facilities are not positively associated with increased criminality, and may play a role in the prevention of certain crimes, like larceny

  • "Tobacco shops, medical marijuana dispensaries (MMD), and off-sale alcohol outlets are legal and prevalent in South Los Angeles, California-a high-crime, low-income urban community of color. This research is the first to explore the geographic associations between these three legal drug outlets with surrounding crime and violence in a large low-income urban community of color. ... Results indicated that mean property and violent crime rates within 100-foot buffers of tobacco shops and alcohol outlets-but not MMDs-substantially exceeded community-wide mean crime rates and rates around grocery/convenience stores (i.e., comparison properties licensed to sell both alcohol and tobacco)."
  • "The results presented above show that temporary dispensary closures increase crime in the short-run. ... Analyzing medical marijuana dispensary closures in the City of Los Angeles, we find no support for the idea that closing dispensaries reduces crime. Rather, temporary closures deter some types of Part I crime. ... Our findings have direct policy implications for regulating marijuana sales in the U.S. They imply that dispensary closures, and potentially the closure of other types of retails establishments, exert a significant negative externality in terms of neighborhood criminality. A quick back of the envelope cost calculation using the change in larceny theft at 1/3 of a mile and crime costs ... suggests that an open dispensary provides over $30,000 per year in social benefit in terms of larcenies prevented."
  • "There were no observed cross-sectional associations between the density of medical marijuana dispensaries and either violent or property crime rates in this study. These results suggest that the density of medical marijuana dispensaries may not be associated with crime rates or that other factors, such as measures dispensaries take to reduce crime (i.e., doormen, video cameras), may increase guardianship such that it deters possible motivated offenders."