The Effect of Medical Marijuana Laws on Crime: Evidence from State Panel Data, 1990-2006
Morris, Robert G.
Barnes, James C.
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Background: Debate has surrounded the legalization of marijuana for medical purposes for decades. Some have argued medical marijuana legalization (MML) poses a threat to public health and safety, perhaps also affecting crime rates. In recent years, some U.S. states have legalized marijuana for medical purposes, reigniting political and public interest in the impact of marijuana legalization on a range of outcomes. Methods: Relying on U.S. state panel data, we analyzed the association between state MML and state crime rates for all Part I offenses collected by the FBI. Findings: Results did not indicate a crime exacerbating effect of MML on any of the Part I offenses. Alternatively, state MML may be correlated with a reduction in homicide and assault rates, net of other covariates. Conclusions: These findings run counter to arguments suggesting the legalization of marijuana for medical purposes poses a danger to public health in terms of exposure to violent crime and property crimes.