DOJ Report: The Cannabis Impact on Crime: Time-Series Evaluation of Crime in Colorado and Washington State



In numerous techniques the legalization of cannabis by ten states and the District of Columbia, as of March 2019, constitutes a grand ongoing experiment into how a main public policy initiative does or does not achieve its anticipated outcomes. A single of the principal expectations of the proponents of Initiative 502, the voter-initiated bill authorizing the recreational sale of marijuana in Washington, was that crime would reduce. Crimes commonly have been anticipated to decline in quantity, but especially these crimes linked with the use of marijuana (e.g., possession, black industry production, sales and distribution of cannabis, burglaries or thefts believed to be committed to safe funds to acquire marijuana). Some preliminary research released shortly following legalization have intimated that crime prices have been going up rather considerably in some of the states that have legalized recreational marijuana (Wise Approaches to Marijuana, 2018). In Washington State, early reports recommended that the quantity of marijuana-connected offenses such as assault, theft, harassment, and vehicular offenses elevated in Washington following the legalization (Northwest Higher Intensity Drug Trafficking Region [NHIDTA], 2016), but that “violent crime is down considering the fact that Washington legalized marijuana” (Santos, 2017Santos, M. (2017). What basically occurred to violent crime following Washington legalized marijuana. The News Tribune. Retrieved from [Google Scholar]). Or, paradoxically, the report by Malcolm Gladwell in The New Yorker, claiming (primarily based on a book by Berenson, [2019Berenson, A. (2019). Inform your young children: The truth about marijuana, mental illness, and violence. New York, NY: Simon &amp Schuster. [Google Scholar]]) that violent crime had elevated in Washington state post legalization.

As Garland (2001Garland, D. (2001). The culture of manage. Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press.[Crossref] , [Google Scholar]) has noted, there is a robust political demand for quick answers to generally really complex concerns of public policy. In brief, numerous politicians are inclined to make use of the earliest offered information, and sadly as well generally what is offered for public consumption at the outset of modify in policy represents study employing restricted pre/post analyses or misrepresentation of details. As well generally the final results reported from such analyses fail to take into consideration the context of practice. For instance, take into consideration headlines linked with escalating citations for public marijuana consumption, in and about main cities. In numerous techniques, these headlines are interpreted to recommend that marijuana customers are increasingly consuming in public, a practice which was explicitly banned in Washington law. Even so, to some extent, these increases may possibly in reality relate to house ordinances and rental agreements banning smoking, exactly where violation is an automatic qualification for termination of the lease. Such policy conundrums generate an atmosphere exactly where it is illegal to smoke in public and basically illegal for marijuana customers to smoke in their residence. In addition, stress from retail establishments and other members of the public can generate stress on police officers to concern citations.

In the absence of extra rigorous and robust varieties of analyses, policy discussions and choices in these states taking into consideration the liberalization of their personal cannabis laws are prone to think the misleading conclusions disseminated about probably outcomes. A selection of claims relating to the deleterious effects of legalization have currently been produced in a quantity of situations such as in Berenson’s broadly cited book (2019) about the purported dangers of marijuana and Vestal (2019)’s column for the Spokesman Assessment. Some politicians have also linked the legalization of marijuana with increases in violence, generally devoid of the assistance of empirical information (Adams, 2018Adams, M. (2018, March 28). California officials say marijuana legalization causing extra violent crime. Forbes. Retrieved July from sites/mikeadams/2018/03/28/california-officials-say-marijuana-legalization-causing-extra-violent-crime/#467755382c3b [Google Scholar]). Advocacy groups, each for and against marijuana legalization could also contribute to this trouble. For instance, the group Wise Approaches to Marijuana (2018), regularly presents anecdotal or single-web-site proof about prospective increases in crime, devoid of a robust evaluation to assistance assertions.

Recognizing the significance for public policy generating of extra robust study styles in this location, this study utilizes a quasi-experimental, multi-group interrupted time-series style to decide if, and how, crime prices in Colorado and Washington State have been influenced by the legalization of recreational marijuana in 2012 and the commence of retail sales in 2014. The objective of the present study is to evaluate no matter if cannabis legalization would lead to alterations in crime prices. This multi-group interrupted time-series study is extra rigorous than the restricted pre/post evaluation regularly utilised to resolve political discussions since its quasi-experimental style has higher capability to assess causality than correlational research (Cook &amp Campbell, 1979Cook, T. D., &amp Campbell, D. T. (1979). Quasi-experimentation: Style &amp evaluation challenges for field settings (Vol. 351). Boston: Houghton Mifflin. [Google Scholar]). As such, this study is timely in that these have been the two earliest states to legalize the increasing, processing, and industrial sale of cannabis for recreational use. Notably, we observed no statistically important extended-term effects of recreational cannabis laws or the initiation of retail sales on violent or house crime prices in either Colorado or Washington.

As the nationwide debate about legalization, the federal classification of cannabis beneath the Controlled Substances Act, and the consequences for crime – from legalization – continues, it is important to center that discussion on research employing contextualized and robust study styles with as handful of limitations as doable.

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