A new study has shown that legalizing medical marijuana in U.S. states bordering Mexico resulted in a dramatic decrease in violent crime.
According to the study, Is Legal Pot Crippling Mexican Drug Trafficking Organizations? The Effect of Medical Marijuana Laws on US Crime, when a state on the Mexican border legalised medical use of the drug, violent crime fell by 13% on average. Most of the marijuana consumed in the US originates in Mexico, where seven major cartels control the illicit drug trade.
They found that among the border states the effect of the change in law was largest in California, where there was a reduction of 15% in violent crime, and weakest in Arizona, where there was a fall of 7%. The crimes most strongly affected were robbery, which fell by 19%, and murder, which dropped by 10%. Homicides specifically related to the drug trade fell by an astonishing 41%.
Economist Evelina Gavrilova, one of the study’s authors, points to market competition as a major factor:
“These growers are in direct competition with Mexican drug cartels that are smuggling the marijuana into the US. As a result, the cartels get much less business.”
The knock-on effect is a reduction in levels of drug-related violence. “The cartels are in competition with one another,” Gavrilova explained. “They compete for territory, but it’s also easy to steal product from the other cartels and sell it themselves, so they fight for the product. They also have to defend their territory and ensure there are no bystanders, no witnesses to the activities of the cartel.
The study’s findings come as Attorney General Jeff Sessions seems committed to revamping the war on marijuana, rescinding Obama-era guidance that allowed states to pursue legalization.
“When the effect on crime is so significant, it’s obviously better to regulate marijuana and allow people to pay taxes on it rather than make it illegal,” Gavrilova said. “For me it’s a no brainer that it should be legal and should be regulated, and the proceeds go to the Treasury.”