Is Marijuana Use Linked to a Rise in Crime and Violence?
A recent Wall Street Journal article attempted to create a link between rising crime levels and violence, and the legalization of cannabis. The article spoke about how cannabis may induce psychosis in some individuals and that these individuals could respond violently. We wrote a full piece by piece editorial you can read here.
However, this doesn’t explain the increase in crime. Nor does it truly explain the increase in violent behavior.
Today, I’ll be talking about a few counter-points to the argument that was brought up in the Wall Street Journal article.
Marijuana Use Rates have Remained Fairly Stable
Whenever a state or a country legalizes marijuana, there is always a spike in consumption. This is due to the novelty factor of legalization. Everybody and their grandmother are looking to smoke some “legal reefer”, and for the first few months you’ll always notice a spike.
However, as time progresses and the novelty factor of legalization wanes and as a result the consumption rates per capita stabilizes. In states like Colorado and Washington, the use rate has remained statistically similar pre and post legalization.
While there is definitely a rise in the adult use of cannabis, there is statistically a reduction when it comes to the consumption of cannabis among younger demographics.
The only reason there is a spike in consumption rates in adults, is because newer audiences are jumping in. Baby Boomers for instance fell in love with the plant as it started providing plenty of health benefits that supplanted their need for pharmaceutical medicines.
Nonetheless, it’s still relatively moderate.
Within the United States, there have been roughly 50 million reported heavy marijuana users both pre-and post-legalization.
This data is gathered from people self-reporting, meaning that the number could be higher than this. Nonetheless, that means that roughly 1 in 7 Americans smoke weed and have smoked weed before it was legal.
The data now might change because people are no longer afraid to talk about their consumption practices. The criminality and taboo of cannabis consumption are vanishing, meaning more people are open to share their experiences without the fear of prosecution or being cast out by their peers.
This means that the data surrounding consumption rates are subjected to change. Thus, we can explain the slight increase in consumption rates. However, eventually these consumption rates will level out as is the case with virtually every other substance on the plant.
Irrespective of consumption rates, there is no correlation between higher rates of criminal activity and violence and the consumption of cannabis.
Another reason why crime rates might go up?
One thing that many researchers simply ignore is growth in population. With a denser population per capita, the criminal element becomes more severe.
Within Denver Colorado, the population grew with roughly 100,000 people since 2012. This influx of people brings in new criminal elements as well. Additionally, the illegality of cannabis on a federal scale attracts criminals to participate in the bootlegging of cannabis to other states.
All of these factors should always be considered when making a claim that marijuana and violence are related.
Under the understanding that the illegality of cannabis creates lucrative opportunities for those willing to sacrifice their liberty for monetary gains, we can actually blame the prohibition states for the increase of criminal activity and violence.
The only reason why there still is a black market for cannabis is because it’s not legal everywhere. Sure, even if it is legal everywhere there will still be a black market, however it will shrink in such a size that “turf wars” will no longer be an issue.
Who would want to wage all-out war with competitors if consumers can buy a joint in Walmart? Nobody is paving the streets red with blood over Coors. This is because there is no economic incentive behind doing things illegally.
The illegality of cannabis is the main reason why there still is violence surrounding the trade. Once we remove all federal barriers, we should see a drop in illegal smuggling.
We can already see this happening on the Southern Border, where more than 70% of border seizures stopped. Or even further South, looking at Mexican marijuana farmers stopping to grow crops due to a 80% reduction in bulk price per kilo.
The loss of revenue to illegal cartels translates into lower rates of violence surrounding cannabis. Of course, Mexican drug cartels are now focusing on things like Meth, Heroin and Human Trafficking, but when you remove cannabis from their retail substances, you remove the violence from cannabis.
We cannot blame a plant for the violence that surrounds it. It’s a system of illegality that places “Us” vs “Them” mentality. After all, if you didn’t want violence associated with drug use…you perhaps shouldn’t declare war on the consumption habits of individuals. I’ve never seen a war without violence.
In conclusion, you can’t blame cannabis for higher crime rates or violence. Rather, blame a system that has been leaching off the human race for the past five decades, that have incarcerated more than 20 million people since the 1970s, cost more than a Trillion dollars, and created bloodshed in countries such as Colombia, Mexico and beyond.
In other words, “Don’t hate the player…hate the game!