While it is probably way too early to make a definitive assessment, it has been six months since marijuana became legal in Colorado, and so far all the signs are looking good:
- Overall crime has dropped 10% from this time a year ago, and violent crime has dropped 5.2%.
- In the first four months, the state received over $10 million in tax revenue from retail sales.
- In addition, the state estimates it will save $12-40 million over the first year just by ending arrests for possession.
- Unemployment has dropped because of new jobs created.
- Polls show that a majority of the state residents think making marijuana legal was a good thing.
Libertarians should be rejoicing. Marijuana became legal and the sky didn’t fall. I expect that other states will follow suit, albeit slowly.
I’m very hesitant to take that first bullet about crime reduction seriously. I could toss out the old trope that correlation is not causation, but it’s more than that. We would need to examine more than just two data points (crime last year vs. this year) to establish a correlation.
The point of the post was that detractors predicted that crime would go up if marijuana were legal. It didn’t.
Also, we absolutely know at least a significant cause of why “crime” went down. In 2012, 12.7% of all arrests were for drug violations. If you simply stop arresting people for marijuana possession (which in 2012 was 42.4% of all drug-related arrests, and doesn’t also count arrests for sale or manufacture) then “crime” will obviously go down. See http://www.drugwarfacts.org/cms/crime
Its interesting in two of the last posts, the point was that the dire predictions made by the right over current policy they disagree with has proven completely inaccurate and is exposed by reality as total fabrication. The knee jerk reaction is to say, ‘whoa there, the facts aren’t in on this yet’, a true enough statement, but having nothing to do with the post. To the casual observer, it might seem a valid argument.
I’ve been wondering over the last 6 years how the right will deal with the day when all their ridiculous predictions are shown to be fantasy. I think you’ve uncovered the strategy from the right going on from here in these posts.
Never, is when. It isn’t about accuracy, and it isn’t about truth; it’s about ideology!
Wow. I can’t believe I was actually mistaken for someone on the right. I think that’s a first for my liberal, college professor self. 😉 For the record, I actually AGREE with the assertion that elimination of the drug war will reduce both overall and violent crime. My point is simply that I don’t find these numbers by themselves to be a slam-dunk argument. Yet.
Let’s try to normalize these numbers a bit here. If 12.7% of previous arrests were drug related and 42.4% of those were for pot, then we need to eliminate that 5.3848% from the base rate. So our adjusted base rate of arrests from 2012 would be 94.6152% of the original number (e.g., so if there were 1000 arrests, we’re only looking at the other 946 that weren’t pot related). Based on the assumption that there was a drop of 10% from the original arrests, we have an effective reduction of 4.88% (.046152/.946152). Returning back to our whole numbers, the 10% drop meant there were 900 arrests. After we eliminated the pot arrests, we had an actual drop of 46 arrests (from 946 down to 900). Thus, controlling for pot arrests, CO’s arrest rate dropped by 4.88%, not 10%.
So what does this mean? We don’t know yet. That was my point. Yes, it is an absolute drop. But that doesn’t tell us much. What if we found that, also controlling for pot arrests, a state with similar demographics experienced a 7% drop in non-pot arrests? In that case, while CO would have experienced a net reduction in actual arrests, they may have had less of a reduction than if pot were still illegal. One could then make the argument that crime was higher with pot legal than it would have been with it illegal, which justifies the beliefs of drug war proponents.
To me, it IS about accuracy and truth. It’s about establishing, first, if there truly is a statistically significant correlation. Then it’s about applying appropriate techniques (e.g., regression, ANOVA, etc.) to provide a meaningful interpretation of what impact legalization had vs. other confounding factors.
So, to me, the 10% number is crap because it doesn’t control for the different criminal statutes properly. (It’d like me giving all of my students A’s and then proclaiming that my teaching methods this year were perfect.) And until proper statistical analysis is performed on the 4.88% and the 5% drop in violent crime, I am wary to go trumpeting a single data point as case closed.
My thought on reading the original post very much correlated with Michael’s on the first point. His post, though, did not cause my agreement – it simply provided me with something to agree with.