Aaron Brethorst

Cannabis Legalization Has Not Led to Violent Crime Increase in Washington State

Legalization in Washington has not led to an increase in violent crime, no matter what Attorney General Jeff Sessions would like the public to believe. As a matter of fact, FBI crime statistics show a decrease in violent crime in the state after legalization, the News Tribune reports, from 295.6 reported violent offenses per 100,000 Washington residents in 2011 – the year prior to legalization – to 284.4 such offenses per 100,000 people in 2015.

According to data from the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs outlined by the Tribune, there was really no statistically significant increase or decrease from 2012 to 2016 either. That data shows 3.6 violent offenses per 1,000 state residents in 2012 and 3.3 offenses per 1,000 residents in 2016.

Mitch Barker, executive director of the association, said “it would be a strain to correlate violent crime with marijuana usage.”

“I would struggle to believe that the legalization of marijuana or more legalization relates to violent crime — somebody would have to make that case to me,” he said in the report.

State Rep. David Sawyer, a Democrat who chairs the state’s House committee on cannabis policy, said while several of his colleagues were concerned about a potential increase in violence “in general, legalization takes money out of the hands of criminals.”

“As far as I’m aware there is no credible study linking violent crime and marijuana,” Sawyer said. “I think what more people are realizing is violent crime is linked to keeping marijuana illegal.”

Republican state Sen. Ann Rivers, who did not back Washington‘s legalization initiative, said the $730 million in tax revenues expected for state coffers from the industry is “not coming from people who woke up one day and said, ‘Oh, it’s legal now, I think I’ll go by some.’”

“The bulk of that is from people who were supporting El Chapo or whoever before,” she said, adding that it would be too expensive and difficult for the feds to try and crack down on the industry.

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