Study: Marijuana Legalization Does Not Increase Crime in Neighboring States

According to a new study legalizing marijuana for all uses is not associated with an increase in crime in neighboring states. The study was published in The Journal of Drug Issues: Its full title is The spillover effect of recreational marijuana legalization on crime: Evidence from neighboring states of Colorado and Washington state.

For the study researchers examined the relationship between state laws that allow for the legal use and sale of marijuana and marijuana products and changes in criminal activities in neighboring jurisdictions that had not legalized marijuana. According to NORML, “They reported no evidence to indicate that legalization was associated with any increase in criminal behaviors in bordering states.” Rather, they reported “some evidence suggesting a spillover crime reduction effect of legalization, as reflected by the significant decreases in the rates of property crime, larceny, and simple assault in the Colorado region that includes six neighboring states.”



The study concludes by stating: “This study provides some evidence demonstrating a crime-reducing effect of recreational marijuana legalization … on neighboring states. … This finding suggests that recreational marijuana legalization in a state may not bring about negative consequences on crime in neighboring states, which challenges the assertions made by public officials in these neighboring states arguing a crime-inducing effect of legalization.”

According to a study released last year the legalization of marijuana including sales at the state level is not associated with any significant or long-term uptick in criminal activity. The study, titled The cannabis effect on crime: Time-series analysis of crime in Colorado and Washington State, was published in the journal Justice Quarterly. ”Researchers concluded by stating that “the results related to serious crime are quite clear: the legalization of marijuana has not resulted in a significant upward trend in crime rates.. Our results from Colorado and Washington suggest that legalization has not had major detrimental effects on public safety.”



The full abstract of the study can be found below:

An ongoing debate exists about the implications of recreational marijuana legalization to public safety. One important public concern is how recreational marijuana legalization may affect crime in neighboring states that have not legalized. Based on Uniform Crime Report (UCR) data from 2003 to 2017, this study used difference-in-differences (DID) analysis to examine the potential spillover effect of recreational marijuana legalization in Colorado and Washington State, with a special focus on the examination of the changes in the rates of a variety of crimes in the border counties of neighboring states relative to the nonborder counties in these states following Colorado’s and Washington’s legalization. Results provide some evidence suggesting a spillover crime reduction effect of legalization, as reflected by the significant decreases in the rates of property crime, larceny, and simple assault in the Colorado region that includes six neighboring states. Results also suggest that the effects of marijuana legalization on crime in neighboring states vary based on crime type and state.

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