Here’s your “no shit” statement for the day: Legalizing limited amounts of marijuana in Colorado has not lead to an increase in crime in the Centennial State so far (nor will it ever).
According to data from the Colorado Department of Public Safety, crime has pretty much gone down in the Denver area in the last three months. Is it because everyone is getting stoned? Probably not. But it couldn’t hurt.
While most of the data can’t really be connected to the legalization of marijuana sales, it does show a notable dip in major crimes like homicide, sexual assaults and robbery. In fact, homicde rates are down 66 percent from this time last year and sexual assault is down 12 percent. Motor vehicle theft is also down considerably, from 1,314 incidents in the first quarter of 2013 and 742 incidents in the first quarter of 2014.
Overall, property crime fell by 14.6 percent compared to the same time last year. Of course, that can’t be directly attributed to marijuana at all – but maybe burglars are just getting too stoned to go out and burglarize these days.
In fact, the areas that saw an increase were aggravated assault (+3.6 percent), burglary (+1.9 percent) and larceny (+2.4 percent). That said, larceny and burglary increases could be attributed – in part – to increased private grow thefts but without any hard data on that it would be hard to tell. It’s also worth noting that before Colorado legalized limited marijuana cultivation in 2012, people likely wouldn’t report that their garden had been burglarized.
The one area that saw a huge surge, sadly, is in the number of arson charges. While we like to smoke out herb here in Denver, apparently we also like setting fire to things we shouldn’t.
The stats are really too small of a sample to show much of anything, but they do show that the city didn’t turn into a dystopian wasteland of drug-addicted looters running amok on the roads and robbing each other for a gram of hash oil.
Of course, this is pretty much stuff we already knew. Medical marijuana dispensaries – while certainly the targets for occasional burglaries – are not magnets for crime. In fact, you’re infinitely more likely to be involved in a bank robbery in Denver than you are a dispensary stickup.
Other recent studies have shown that legalizing marijuana on some levels may reduce violent crime overall. A University of Texas study of FBI crime data from the last 17 years showed that homicide and assault may lower in states were cannabis is legalized for medical or recreational use.