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The study, appropriately titled “Is Legal Pot Crippling Mexican Drug Trafficking Organizations? The Effect of Medical Marijuana Laws on US Crimes,” found that when a state that borders Mexico introduced medical marijuana laws, violent crime fell. According to The Guardian, the majority of the marijuana consumed in the U.S. comes from Mexico; seven drug cartels control the drug trade. Of course, the cartels also work with other drugs, such as cocaine heroine, or methamphetamine, but marijuana remains the largest drug for the U.S. market, which means it’s also the drug that provides the cartel with the most amount of profit. (For reference, it costs about $75 to make one pound of marijuana in Mexico, but it can be sold for as much as $6,000.)
The researchers analyzed data from the FBI’s uniform crime reports and other homicide records and covered a period from 1994 to 2012. The results are fascinating. The state that saw the biggest change was perhaps not surprising, California: 15 percent of violent crime fell in that state after medical marijuana was signed into law. Arizona saw the weakest decrease in crime, with a seven percent fall. The study also determined the specific kinds of crimes that decreased as a result of the marijuana laws: the most affected was robbery and murder, which fell 19 percent and 10 percent each, respectively. But the most striking statistic is that homicides related to the drug trade fell by 41 percent.
“When the effect on crime is so significant, it’s obviously better to regulate marijuana and allow people to pay taxes on it rather than make it illegal,” said economist Evelina Gavrilova, one of the authors of the study, said. “For me it’s a no brainer that it should be legal and should be regulated, and the proceeds go to the Treasury.”
“These laws allow local farmers to grow marijuana that can then be sold to dispensaries where it is sold legally,” Gavrilova continued. “These growers are in direct competition with Mexican drug cartels that are smuggling the marijuana into the U.S. As a result, the cartels get much less business.”
“The cartels are in competition with one another,” Gavrilova explained. “They compete for territory, but it’s also easy to steal product from the other cartels and sell it themselves, so they fight for the product. They also have to defend their territory and ensure there are no bystanders, no witnesses to the activities of the cartel.”
“Whenever there is a medical marijuana law we observe that crime at the border decreases because suddenly there is a lot less smuggling and a lot less violence associated with that.”
More than 20 states have introduced medical marijuana laws, and others, like Colorado, have legalized marijuana for recreational use as well. This study is released on the back of U.S. Attorney General Jeff Session’s decision to reverse an Obama-era policy that prevented federal prosecution of legal marijuana unless it was being sold to minors; under Sessions, attorneys can now prosecute anyone for buying, selling, or using weed even in states where it’s legal.