Pubdate: Sun, 12 Oct 2014
Source: Bradenton Herald (FL)
Copyright: 2014 Bradenton Herald
Author: Kate Irby
Cited: United for Care
Bookmark: (Marijuana - Medicinal)


Opponents of legalizing marijuana commonly talk about how that will
cause an increase in violent crime, but some recent studies are saying
that's not the case.

There are a few studies that say linking increased violent crime to
the legalization of marijuana is baseless. But law enforcement
officials both in Manatee County and nationally warn not to take those
studies at face value. In less than a month, Florida voters will
decide the fate of Amendment 2 which would legalize marijuana for
medicinal purposes.

"You can Google it and find multiple studies on all sides," said
Manatee County Sheriff Brad Steube.

Ben Pollara, spokesman for United for Care, the group campaigning to
in favor of Amendment 2, disagrees.

"I haven't seen anything that suggests medical marijuana leads to an
increase in crime," Pollara said.

To date, 23 states plus the District of Columbia have legalized
marijuana for medicinal purposes. Crime statistics from 15 of those
states plus D.C. -- the ones that legalized before 2011, where
complete figures were available -- show that the number of violent
crimes had decreased by 20.4 percent between two years before
legalization and two years after legalization.

By comparison, violent crime decreased by 13.8 percent over the past
five years in the 27 states that have not legalized medical marijuana,
according to data compiled by the FBI.

Marijuana and Crime?

Robert Morris, associate professor of criminology at the University of
Texas at Dallas, said his study, which was published in the journal
PLOS ONE, concludes that crime has not increased in medical
marijuana-friendly states.

"I can say very confidently that it (legalization of medical
marijuana) does not increase crime," Morris said.

In fact, Morris said there might be evidence that it reduces violent
crime, particularly homicides and assaults, but they're gathering more
data before they offer that conclusion.

Morris' study took into account a number of sociodemographic and
econometric variables that are linked to changes in crime rates,
including statistics on poverty, unemployment, college education,
prison inmates -- even the amount of beer consumed per person per year.

The study, published in March 2014, looked at crime rates from all 50
states between 1990 and 2006, during which 11 states legalized
marijuana for medical purposes. Crimes studied were homicide, rape,
robbery, assault, burglary, larceny and auto theft.

The study also looked at medical marijuana dispensaries, which some
claim have become a target for crimes such as burglaries.

"Even specifically looking at that, we found no impact on the crime
rate around dispensaries," Morris said.

The study said after controlling for variables there is no increase in
crime around dispensaries, and that it's possible that some
dispensaries actually reduce crime in the immediate vicinity.

"This may be due to the security measures implemented by dispensary
owners (i.e., having security cameras, having a doorman, and having
signs requiring identification)," the report said.

Another study, in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, had the
same conclusions.

Slippery Slope Debatable

Steube cast doubt over the reports' findings.

"You're talking about thousands of dollars in those dispensaries. It
only goes to reason" that crime will increase, Steube said. "It's a
lucrative target."

Steube also pointed to issues with the legalization of recreational
marijuana in Colorado, saying medical marijuana can be a slippery slope.

"Medical marijuana came first in Colorado, and now it's full-blown,"
Steube said. "If you want it, you can have it."

Steube and Bradenton Police Chief Michael Radzilowski said
recreational marijuana in Colorado has not eliminated the problems
associated with the drug being sold on the streets.

"Street drug sales of marijuana in Colorado have increased, not
decreased," Radzilowski said, citing conversations with the Denver
police chief. "It's made the problem worse."

Steube said there were 15 violent deaths in which a caregiver was the
victim in Colorado in 2006, according to Colorado's attorney general.

Steube's deputies recently intercepted a package from the state of
Washington with 44 grams of marijuana valued at about $500.

"We're seeing states where it is legal, illegally sending it to our
residents," Steube said.

There are conflicting reports on how recreational marijuana has
affected the crime rate in Colorado. The High Intensity Drug
Trafficking Areas Program, a federal program that provides assistance
to law enforcement, says crime increased by 6.7 percent in the first
six months of this year, compared to the same period in 2013.

Crime Statistics

But statistics reported by the Denver Police Department say violent
crime has decreased by 3.9 percent and that all crime has decreased by
9 percent between January and August of 2013 and January through
August of 2014.

Pollara said the legalization of marijuana for medical purposes and
for recreational purposes are two separate issues and have no link.

"The slippery slope is pure hypothesis and not based on reality,"
Pollara said. "Only two states have legalized marijuana
recreationally, two tried and failed and one legalized it then stopped."

Morris said there isn't enough data to study how the legalization of
recreational marijuana has affected the crime rate, since it was just
legalized in Colorado this year. But he said he and fellow researchers
are planning to look into it both in Colorado and Washington once more
data are available.

Morris said he hoped his study would take the fear of rising crime out
of conversations about legalizing medical marijuana.

"This new information, along with continued education of the public on
the realities of the negative aspects of smoking marijuana -- which
there are considerable negative attributes -- will make the dialogue
between those opposed and in favor of legalization on more of an even
playing field," Morris said.

"It takes away the subjective comments about the link between
marijuana laws and crime, so the dialogue can be more in tune with
- ---
MAP posted-by: Richard