Less Criminalization = Fewer Criminals
The most obvious thing that happens when a government stops punishing people for certain marijuana-related activities (it is shocking, but it is so obvious that this is sometimes overlooked) is that marijuana arrests and prosecutions drop tremendously. Marijuana arrests in Colorado fell from 12,894 in 2012, when voters approved legalization, to only 7,004 in 2014 (the first year of legal recreational sales). This is a 46% decrease. Marijuana charges filed in Colorado courts also fell 81% between 2012 and 2015! Those dramatic changes saved thousands of people from unjust punishment, saved resources and state, taxpayer money, but also channeled police resources into more pressing matters.
Legalizing Marijuana Doesn’t Seem To Result In Increased Crime
Prohibitionists often imply that legalization has boosted crime in Colorado… but there is little evidence of that. Colorado’s property crime rate actually fell by 5% between 2012 and 2015, while its violent crime rate rose by 1%. Since 2009, when the medical marijuana industry in Colorado started to take off, both rates have fallen—by 3% and 6%, respectively.
The Impact on Traffic Safety is Unclear
The Colorado State Patrol began collecting information on the drug involved in driving under the influence (DUI) cases beginning only in 2014. DUI summonses involving marijuana (either alone or in combination with other drugs or alcohol) fell 1% between 2014 and 2015. The Denver Police Department, which started keeping track of these numbers a year earlier, found that marijuana-related DUI citations doubled between 2013 and 2014 (from 33 to 66), then rose again in 2015, from 66 to 73.
However, these figures are not solely affected by an increase in stoned drivers, but also police awareness and enforcement priorities, that heightened post legalization.
To further complicate things, even when a DUI suspicion is substantiated by tests showing THC in a driver’s blood, that does not necessarily mean he or she was impaired while he was driving. When marijuana consumption rises in the general population, the percentage of drivers who test positive for THC will rise too, even if they are not actually stoned behind the wheel.