Stockton researcher finds legal pot had little effect on crime elsewhere
As it remains in toss-up mode whether or not New Jersey will go ahead anytime soon with the legalization of recreational marijuana, in-depth research led by a Stockton University faculty member finds little to no effect on crime in the two states that were the first to do so.
The study, which researchers said uses more rigorous methods of data collecting than previous studies, recorded changes in violent and property crime rates in Colorado and Washington, and compared them to changes in the many states where there are no laws on the books for recreational or broad medical marijuana use.
"There was minimal to no long-term changes in violent and property crime rates in Colorado and Washington," said Ruibin Lu, assistant professor of criminal justice at Stockton and first author on the paper.
The study analyzed crime data from 2012, when the two states legalized adult use, to 2016. In both states, property crime rates increased in the immediate year after legalization, along with aggravated assault rates in Washington. But those increases were temporary and did not lead to significant change over a longer period.
The only significant long-term difference, Lu said, was a decline in burglary rates in Washington.
"Our research is not advocating for or against legalizing recreational marijuana," Lu said. "Our main goal is to present facts to help legislators and the voters make more informed decisions."
Efforts in New Jersey to make the move, a campaign promise by now Governor Phil Murphy, stalled in March after it appeared a deal had been made.
Eleven states, plus the District of Columbia, have legalized marijuana for recreational use. Illinois became the latest to do so in June.
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