Study: Medical Cannabis Laws Reduce Crime in U.S. States Near Mexico

U.S. states, which have introduced medical marijuana laws, witnessed a drop of 13 percent on average in violent crimes, a study – published in The Economic Journal – has revealed.

The study, titled:  “Is Legal Pot Crippling Mexican Drug Trafficking Organizations? The Effect of Medical Marijuana Laws on US Crimes,” examined states bordering Mexico, The Guardian reported.

The researchers studied data from the FBI’s uniform crime reports and supplementary homicide records covering 1994 to 2012.

“Whenever there is a medical marijuana law we observe that crime at the border decreases because suddenly there is a lot less smuggling and a lot less violence associated with that,” the economist Evelina Gavrilova, one of the study’s authors, said.

While Mexican drug cartels smuggle cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine, marijuana is the largest market for them in the United States.  It costs around $75 to produce a pound of marijuana in Mexico, which can then be sold for $6,000 depending on the quality.

However, with the growing legalization trend, marijuana is also no longer profitable for these drug cartels as local supplies have pushed prices down for cannabis.

In an interview with Business Insider published in August, a Mexican farmer in the country’s Sinaloa state said the value of marijuana had fallen from about $74 a kilo in 2010 to a little over $26 now.

“These laws allow local farmers to grow marijuana that can then be sold to dispensaries where it is sold legally,” said Gavrilova, adding: “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 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.

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A sign advertises a medical marijuana dispensary on Venice Beach in Los Angeles, California, July 19, 2010. (Image via Reuters)

Biggest Change in California

Gavrilova, along with fellow researchers Takuma Kamada and Floris Zoutman found the biggest change was taking place 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, murder, and homicides, which fell by 19%, 10%, and 41% respectively.

If will be interesting if the study can be renewed amid the new changes taking place especially following the legalization of marijuana in California on Jan. 1.

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