The National Institute of Justice has issued a grant to fund a new study that is aimed to determine the effect of this legal change on crime rates.
The study, conducted by researchers at Washington State University, Stockton University, and the University of Utah, looked at legalization and sales of recreational cannabis in the states of Colorado and Washington. It found minimal to no effect on rates of violent and property crimes in those states.
The study has been published in Justice Quarterly, a publication of the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences.
“In many ways, the legalization of cannabis constitutes a grand ongoing experiment into how a major public policy initiative does or does not accomplish its expected outcomes,” explains Ruibin Lu, assistant professor of criminal justice at Stockton University, and the first author on a paper about the study.
“Given the likelihood of more states legalizing recreational marijuana, we felt it was important to apply robust empirical methods to parse out the effects of this action on crime in the first years after legalization.”
“As the nationwide debate about legalization, the federal classification of cannabis under the Controlled Substances Act, and the consequences of legalization for crime continues, it is essential to center that discussion on studies that use contextualized and robust research designs with as few limitations as possible,” said Dale W. Willits, assistant professor of criminal justice and criminology at Washington State University. Willitis was one of the coauthors of the study. “This is but one study and legalization of marijuana is still relatively new, but by replicating our findings, policymakers can answer the question of how legalization affects crime.”