Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek thinks pot makes you violent

Have you ever heard of anyone being a violent stoner, Sheriff Stanek? We think not.
Have you ever heard of anyone being a violent stoner, Sheriff Stanek? We think not.

No doubt, smoking ganja makes folks aggressive -- toward snack foods. But toward humans?

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As counterintuitive as that may seem, it's the sincere belief of Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek, who argued in a Sunday Star Tribune op-ed that "there is a direct connection between marijuana and violent crime."

The point of Stanek's piece was to express "extreme disappointment" in the U.S. Department of Justice's recent decision not to challenge the legalization of pot in Colorado and Washington.

"Marijuana is illegal under federal law and should remain that way," Stanek continued, asserting that it's "an addictive gateway drug that harms Minnesota's children and public safety in every community in our state."

Stanek doubled down on his position during an interview with MPR earlier today, saying, "When I look at my jail and I see 40,000 people a year booked into the front doors, 54 percent of the ones booked for violent offenses are under the influence of marijuana when they commit those violent offenses -- you know, I've got to take a step back and say, wait a minute. There is a direct correlation."

"When you show me that in a jail that books 40,000 people a year for a variety of offenses, whether drunk driving, domestic assault, rape, robbery, murder, and I don't have 54 percent of them under the influence of marijuana, maybe I'll say something different," Stanek continued. "But at this point the facts speak for themselves."

But while it may be the case that 54 percent of those booked into Hennepin County Jail have THC in their system, that doesn't necessarily mean smoking pot had anything to do with their criminal behavior -- after all, THC can stay in a person's system for weeks, and nobody would believe that a joint smoked two weeks ago played a role in an assault that happened yesterday.

Furthermore, contra Stanek, an explainer on the connection (or lack thereof) between marijuana use and violence put together by the University of Washington notes that "no definitive correlation between marijuana use and violence in adults has been establish[ed]."

"Violence in anyone, including marijuana users, often has a multicausal explanation, with numerous factors impacting behavior, such as increased life stress, aggressive personality traits, multidrug use, or a history of violent behavior," the explainer continues, citing academic studies.

Lastly, two wrongs don't make a right, but let's be real -- drunkenness more often plays a role in causing violent behavior than being stoned, yet nobody is talking about bringing back prohibition.

And one further point -- how much easier would it be to pay for projects like the Vikings stadium if marijuana were legalized and taxed?

But ultimately, the proof will be in the pudding, so to speak, and the pudding is almost ready to be eaten (or smoked) -- the first recreational marijuana retail shops in Colorado are expected to open around right around January 1, 2014. And if legalization goes well and proves lucrative there and in Washington, you can bet other states will follow suit sooner than later.

h/t -- Dan Feidt

-- Follow Aaron Rupar on Twitter at @atrupar. Got a tip? Drop him a line at [email protected]

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