Dr. Italia V. Rolle, PhD and Dr. Tim McAfee, MD Office on Smoking and Health National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion CDC

Does Legalizing Pot Reduce Crime?

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
“Smoking Marijuana” by Martin Alonso is licensed under CC BY 2.0Ruibin Lu

Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice
Stockton University
Absecon, New Jersey

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?

Response: We are witnessing a trend of legalizing marijuana in the United States and in the world. Many states have either legalized recreational marijuana or are considering it. At the same time, there are concerns about what will happen to our society if weed is legal. One of the concerns is about crime rates: are we going to experience more or fewer crimes after legalizing recreational marijuana? This is a legitimate question that we should consider when making cannabis-related public policies. Our research provides a preliminary answer to this question. It analyzes crime rates before and after the legalization using rigorous scientific methods and provides more information on how marijuana legalization may affect crime rates.

MedicalResearch.com: What are the main findings?

Response:      Our research finds overall minimal long-term changes in crime rates in Washington and Colorado after the legalization and retail sale. There were some temporary increases in crime. In the year immediately after the legalization, property crime rates temporarily increased in Colorado, which was mainly driven by an increase in larceny rates. Property crime rates and burglary and aggravated assault rates also temporarily increased in Washington shortly after the legalization. However, such changes in crime were short-lived in both states. The long-term (2012-2016) overall violent and property crime rates did not change significantly, except for a decrease in burglary rates in Washington state.

MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?

Response:       I recommend readers to use our research findings during discussions on marijuana policies. Legislators and the public should make informed-decisions and should consider how marijuana legalization will influence various aspects of our society, including crime rates, when making those decisions. While I would caution the public against concluding that legalizing marijuana would not affect crime rates, the current data does indicate long-term violent and property crime rates were relatively steady in Washington and Colorado. I think readers should be aware of this fact when making policy decisions. I would also recommend the readers to base all discussions about marijuana policies on scientific data and support more research on this subject. 

MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work?

 Response:      Our research only focused on FBI’s Part I crimes, which does not include offenses such as driving under the influence of cannabis. It also only studies the overall trends of crime rates in two states from 2012 to 2016. Therefore, I would recommend future research to study the changes in other types of crimes after legalizing recreational marijuana and to include more states and more years of data into the analysis.

MedicalResearch.com: Is there anything else you would like to add?

Response:      The intention behind our research is not to advocate for or against legalizing recreational marijuana. Our goal is to present facts on crime rates and to help legislators and voters make more informed decisions. 


The Cannabis Effect on Crime: Time-Series Analysis of Crime in Colorado and Washington State

Ruibin Lu,Dale Willits,Mary K. Stohr,David Makin,John Snyder,Nicholas Lovrich

Received 12 Oct 2018, Accepted 05 Sep 2019, Published online: 08 Oct 2019



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Last Updated on October 14, 2019 by Marie Benz MD FAAD