Opponents of marijuana legalization have never been shy about predicting consequences of biblical proportions should the drug become legal: pot will lead to rape; a scourge of crime will sweep the land; cartels will rise like Cthulhu and enslave us all; brains will be baked in America’s laboratories of democracy.
After 7 months of totally legal pot in two American states, contributor Pat Kane notes six interesting things that did not happen. -Ed.
6. A Crime Wave
Contrary to anti-marijuana hysterics, crime rates in states that have legalized marijuana haven’t gone up. In fact, they’ve actually gone down. Legalization has dispensed with thousands of low level marijuana arrests in both Colorado and Washington. A report from Washington shows that marijuana filings for people over 21 have dropped to only 2% of what they were the year before legalization.
It is obvious that arrests for marijuana would decline after it became legal, but this is not the only category of crime that has fallen. In a study published by PLOS ONE, researchers found that heinous crimes such as assault, rape, and murder were not increased by marijuana. Recent data from Colorado confirms this, showing violent crime from January to June of 2014 is significantly lower than it was just one year ago. Sexual assaults in Denver fell almost 20%, and the city has seen a 38% drop in homicides. Meanwhile, contrary to drug warrior predictions, there has been no wave of traffic fatalities from stoned drivers.
It is not clear what role legalization played in Denver’s lower crime rates, but it is obvious that legalized pot has not increased violent crime as critics suspected. In addition to this, legalization has freed up these state’s justice systems from dealing with thousands of victimless, low level drug arrests — saving police departments time and taxpayers money.
5. People Dying in the Streets
An article from The Daily Currant went viral after it claimed that 37 people had died of a marijuana overdose on the first day of legalization in Colorado. The news came as a shock to activists and medical officials everywhere, owing to that fact that there had been no cases of death by marijuana overdose ever reported before that article ran.
Countless people were horrified, including a Maryland police chief who cited it as evidence against legalization. While everyone took notice of the piece’s sensational headline, few bothered to read the “About” page, which explains that the Daily Currant is a satirical publication.
Snopes declared the article to be “half baked” and reminded readers that a marijuana overdose is “virtually a medical impossibility.” In fact, a smoker would have to consume somewhere between 20,000 to 40,000 times the amount of THC found in a joint to overdose.
For comparison, almost 88,000 people in the United States alone die from alcohol use each year — roughly 241 people every day.
4. Reefer Madness
While the idea of ‘reefer madness’ had died decades ago, it has been resurrected in the past few years in the form of a supposed link between marijuana use and schizophrenia. Attempting to link pot use to mental disorders has proved to be one of anti-pot activists’ oldest plays, and they aren’t letting it go without a fight.
It would be nice to dismiss their claims off the cuff, however there does appear to be some basis to the correlation. Psychiatrist Robert Power at King’s College London admits “there is a well-established link between people who use cannabis and schizophrenia.” Though there does appear to be a link between the two, it is not nearly as simple as anti-pot activists claim.
A study published last February seems to confirm what researchers have suspected for years: smoking pot does not cause schizophrenia in users; schizophrenics tend to use pot. It seems that there may be a genetic overlap in those who suffer from schizophrenia that is related to the predisposition to enjoy smoking marijuana, or it may be that suffers are self-medicating with cannabis. However, since schizophrenia only affects roughly 1% of the population, this does not apply to vast majority of users.
While there is still much debate in the scientific community as to the exact role THC plays in things like schizophrenia, it appears that marijuana use is far more likely to be a result of schizophrenia than a cause of it.
3. Plummeting IQs
The notion that marijuana use is linked to low IQs runs so deep in American culture, that it permeates modern language. This connection can be seen in the word “dope,” which denotes both marijuana and an idiot. Though marijuana use has become synonymous with stupidity, there is a plethora of both empirical data and anecdotal evidence that proves this connection is baseless.
President Obama, Oprah Winfrey, Bill Gates, Rand Paul, Steve Jobs, and Clarence Thomas have all admitted to using marijuana in their pasts — some admitted to doing it frequently.
A list of celebrities and entrepreneurs does not prove that casual marijuana use has no effect on IQ, but the lack of credible studies confirming pots dangerous effects on the brain strongly suggests the connection is weak or nonexistent. Studies making such claims have been widely criticized and debunked by the scientific community.
Smoking pot may not be the best thing for the developing teenage mind, but there is no good evidence to suggest it is much worse for their IQs than jet lag, junk food, reality TV, or spanking.
2. Cartels Taking Over
Anyone familiar with US history and basic economics can recognize that prohibition is the lifeblood of drug cartels, but fearmongers have tried tirelessly to promote the idea that legalization will lead to an increase in cartel activity in the United States. Legalization has shown nothing could be further from the truth.
An exposè by The Washington Post revealed that US legalization has been devastating for the pot industry in Mexico and Latin America. The wholesale price of marijuana has plummeted from over $100 per kilo to only $25, forcing many farmers who have grown the plant for generations to give up and switch to poppy plants.
Just as the end of alcohol prohibition destroyed liquor gangs, drug legalization will eventually destroy cartel power in Central and South America. Instead of looking towards inept government bureaucracies with a vested interest in criminal activity to put an end to ultra-violent drug lords, Americans should look to Colorado and Washington.
To some, legalized drugs may not be a particularly savory thought, but then again, neither are routine chainsaw decapitations along the border. It may not be a fun choice (at least for puritans), but it is an obvious one. In the end, all it takes to kill the cartels once and for all is for voters to ‘Just Say Yes’ to drugs.
1. Kids Buying Weed (At Legal Dispensaries)
Anyone who grew up in Colorado knows buying marijuana before legalization wasn’t exactly a difficult thing to do — especially for teens in public schools.
Despite this, many feared that legalization would lead to more teens illegally buying marijuana from dispensaries. This has not been the case. Out of 20 sting operations across the state where underage buyers were sent into dispensaries by Colorado law enforcement, none of them were found selling to minors.
Additionally, a study from the Center for Disease Control found that drug use in teens has remained stagnant as more and more states opt for legalization or decriminalization. Given the fact that drug use in teens has not gone up as predicted, and teens are not buying from dispensaries, a billion dollar war on drugs has proved itself to less successful at keeping kids away from drugs than simple legalization.