Cambridge, MA: The enactment of state-level, adult-use marijuana legalization laws is not associated with increases in either drug treatment admissions, violent crime, or overdose deaths, according to a comprehensive analysis published by the National Bureau of Economic Research.
A team of economists reviewed nationally representative data across all 50 states and the District of Columbia to “comprehensively explore the broader impacts of RMLs [recreational marijuana laws], providing some of the first evidence on how marijuana legalization is affecting illicit drug use, heavy alcohol use, arrests for drug and non-drug offenses, and objectively-measured adverse drug-related events including drug-related overdose deaths and admissions into substance abuse treatment services.”
They determined: “We find little compelling evidence to suggest that RMLs result in increases in illicit drug use, arrests for part I [violent] offenses, drug-involved overdoses, or drug-related treatment admissions for addiction. … Our findings provide key evidence evaluating the ongoing, occasionally contentious, political debate on legalizing marijuana use, and inform whether recreational marijuana use is a ‘gateway’ to addiction to harder drugs and criminal behavior.”
The study’s findings are consistent with those others – such as those here and here – which have similarly reported that changes in the state-legal status of cannabis are not associated with any significant adverse effects on overall health and safety.
Full text of the study – “Is recreational marijuana a gateway to harder drug use and crime?” – is available from the National Bureau of Economic Research. Additional information is available from the NORML fact sheet ‘Marijuana Regulation: Impact on Health, Safety, Economy.’