New study undercuts law enforcement claims about medical marijuana

The presence of dispensaries doesn't correlate with increased crime, including robberies, the study finds.

The presence of dispensaries doesn't correlate with increased crime, including robberies, the study finds.

One of the main reasons Gov. Mark Dayton doesn't support medical marijuana is because law enforcement is opposed to it. For example, last fall, Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek wrote an op-ed arguing "there is a direct connection between marijuana and violent crime."

That argument strikes pot users as strange -- sure, ganja might foster aggression toward snack foods, but have you ever met a violent stoner?

A new study from researchers at the University of Texas at Dallas not only supports the intuition that pot doesn't make people violent, but goes a step further and suggests medical marijuana might actually lead to more law and order.

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The study, which looks at nationwide crime data from 1990 to 2006, finds the 11 states that legalized medical marijuana during that timeframe experienced no significant uptick in homicide, rape, robbery, assault, burglary, larceny, and auto theft. In fact, medical marijuana appears to be correlated with an overall reduction in violent crime.

"With one exception -- forcible rape -- states passing MML laws experienced reductions in crime and the rate of reduction appears to be steeper for states passing MML laws as compared to others for several crimes such as homicide, robbery, and aggravated assault," the authors write. "The raw number of homicides, robberies, and aggravated assaults also appear to be lower for states passing MML as compared to other states, especially from 1998-2006."

"These findings run counter to arguments suggesting the legalization of marijuana for medical purposes poses a danger to public health in terms of exposure to violent crime and property crimes," the authors conclude.

It's important to note, of course, that the findings don't prove medical marijuana is the reason for the decrease in crime. Instead, it might be more about the prevailing political environment in states that legalize medical marijuana than the effects of pot itself, the authors suggest.

"Perhaps the more likely explanation of the current findings is that MML laws reflect behaviors and attitudes that have been established in the local communities," the authors write. "If these attitudes and behaviors reflect a more tolerant approach to one another's personal rights, we are unlikely to expect an increase in crime and might even anticipate a slight reduction in personal crimes."

Whatever the explanation, the University of Texas at Dallas study is a lot more persuasive than the anecdotal and incomplete evidence used by Stanek to make his case.

h/t -- Washington Post

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