A new report released by the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice (CJCJ) has found that cannabis decriminalization in California has resulted in a reduction in crime, drug overdoses, driving under the influence, suicides and school dropout among teenagers.
According to the report, there was a 22% reduction in school dropouts among teenagers two years after the state decriminalized cannabis possession in 2010. There was also a 20% reduction in drug overdose deaths, despite their being a 4% overall increase of these deaths in the U.S. during the same period, and an over 10% reduction in suicides. Criminal arrests among teenagers went down a total of 30% just two years after decriminalization.
According to CJCJ, the analysis compared “five states that implemented major marijuana reforms over the last five years, evaluating the reforms’ impacts on marijuana arrests, racial disparities, and various health and safety outcomes.” They note that “California, Connecticut, and Massachusetts have decriminalized small quantities of marijuana for all ages, while Colorado and Washington have legalized small quantities of the substance for people 21 and older.”
Here were the group’s key findings:
- All five states experienced substantial declines in marijuana possession arrests. The four states with available data also showed unexpected drops in marijuana felony arrests.
- States that decriminalized marijuana for all ages experienced the largest decreases in marijuana arrests or cases, led by drops among young people and for low-level possession.
- Staggering racial disparities remain — and in some cases are exacerbated — following marijuana reforms. African Americans are still more likely to be arrested for marijuana offenses after reform than all other races and ethnicities were before reform.
- Marijuana decriminalization in California has not resulted in harmful consequences for teenagers, such as increased crime, drug overdose, driving under the influence, or school dropout. In fact, California teenagers showed improvements in all risk areas after reform.
The report concludes; “Given the consequences of marijuana arrest, including fines, jail time, a criminal record, loss of student loans and other federal aid, and court costs, getting arrested for marijuana use may be more harmful than the drug itself — at any age. The report recommends adopting the best of both approaches and moving toward full legalization. Further reforms, beyond marijuana policies, will be necessary to address egregious and persistent racial disparities.”