Effects of Drug Legalization on Crime

The legalization of drugs has long become a subject of controversy. Many debates regarding whether or not legalizing marijuana have reduced crime have been raised. The legalization of marijuana (Cannabis) in different states has shown many benefits in reducing crime over the stipulated increase of crimes. Specialists supporting the decriminalization of Cannabis have developed a long list of associated reduction of crimes in states such as Washington, Colorado, California, and Denver. For instance, drug crimes, killings, and robberies numbers have dropped after marijuana was legalized for recreational and medical use. Therefore, this paper will discuss the effects of drug legalization on crime, especially marijuana, in various states.

Legalizing marijuana for recreational use has resulted in a drop in criminal activities. For instance, Colorado had an “8.9% decline in property crime and an 84% fall in ownership charges” (Firth et al., 2019). Possession charges have decreased significantly, as marijuana is no longer listed as a drug. Still, relatively few people are indeed being taken to court for a crime that would have been used to convict people who would have used dangerous drugs, such as cocaine and meth. This is following the majority of the charges were related to marijuana. There has been no rise in drug usage among young people in Washington state after the legalization of marijuana, with marijuana law violations and convictions down by 63% and 63%, respectively (Firth et al., 2019). As in Colorado, the legalization of marijuana did not lead to an uptick in crime in Washington, and it did not encourage young people to begin using the substance. Thus, no rise in the number of people smoking pot illegally while under 18 was present.

There was a decline in criminal activity in most regions where medicinal marijuana was legalized, although the legalization of recreational marijuana did not. As a result of the legalization of medical marijuana, states like Washington and Oregon had a 31% and 41% decrease in crime, while Vermont saw a 24% increase in crime, and Rhode Island saw a 10% increase (Paschall et al., 2021). Legalizing something does not necessarily benefit the general community, evidenced by a rise in crime in certain states. While there was a drop in robbery and assault, the number of people committing auto theft and forcible rape increased in “states where medicinal marijuana was permitted” compared to “states where it was not legalized” (Paschall et al., 2021). Even though medical marijuana and decreased crime rates are exceptions, this suggests that outliers can apply and that the legalization of marijuana could raise crime rates. Despite an increase in criminal activity in some regions, overall crime decreased in most places where medical marijuana was allowed.

In many areas, crime numbers have improved due to marijuana legalization. Robberies and burglaries at marijuana dispensaries in Denver saw a three-year low, according to the Denver Post (Firth et al., 2019). According to these statistics, individuals halted stealing from shops that sold marijuana when it was legalized for recreational use. People stopped looking for alternatives if they could not legally get marijuana from dispensaries. In addition, the number of marijuana possession charges dropped by 98% in Washington, D.C. (Firth et al., 2019). This is evidenced by the massive fall in marijuana charges.

In conclusion, the legalization of marijuana has reduced the number of drug-related crimes, robberies, and killings in the United States. It is essential because many drug crimes are caused by people owning cannabis even if they have no intention of using it. Possessing marijuana as a criminal offense is analogous to making alcohol illegal, because, in both instances, people would use the substance in the safety, privacy, and comfort of their own homes, and would find other means to obtain the substance they desired. With the legalization of marijuana, citizens will be able to freely purchase it, which will result in a reduction in drug crimes as fewer individuals will go to dealers to buy illegally.


Firth, C. L., Maher, J. E., Dilley, J. A., Darnell, A., & Lovrich, N. P. (2019). Did marijuana legalization in Washington State reduce racial disparities in adult marijuana arrests? Substance use & misuse, 54(9), 1582-1587.

Paschall, M. J., García-Ramírez, G., & Grube, J. W. (2021). Recreational marijuana legalization and use among California adolescents: Findings from a statewide survey. Journal of studies on alcohol and drugs, 82(1), 103-111.

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LawBirdie. (2023) 'Effects of Drug Legalization on Crime'. 11 May.


LawBirdie. 2023. "Effects of Drug Legalization on Crime." May 11, 2023. https://lawbirdie.com/effects-of-drug-legalization-on-crime/.

1. LawBirdie. "Effects of Drug Legalization on Crime." May 11, 2023. https://lawbirdie.com/effects-of-drug-legalization-on-crime/.


LawBirdie. "Effects of Drug Legalization on Crime." May 11, 2023. https://lawbirdie.com/effects-of-drug-legalization-on-crime/.