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Legalizing Medical Pot Doesn't Actually Lead To More Violent Crime, Study Says

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Pineapple kush from a medical marijuana dispensary (Photo by drunkonlove via the LAist Featured Photos pool on Flickr)
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Unless you consider the munchies particularly dangerous, legalizing medicinal marijuana doesn’t lead to more violent crime, a new study says.A nationwide study published in the journal PLOS One says despite worries that legalizing weed for medicinal use leads to higher crime rates, there is no evidence of that happening. In fact, legalizing medicinal marijuana may actually be correlated with less violent crime.

Researchers from the University of Texas at Dallas looked at FBI data from 11 states in that made medicinal marijuana legal between 1990 and 2006. Though crime in general fell during that time, a closer look shows that after medicinal marijuana was legalized, there was no spike in violent crimes—even those you might associate with pot dispensaries, such as robbery and burglary.

Declines in homicide and assault after legalization can be explained away, but the researchers offered one possible explanation: People substitute smoking pot for drinking alcohol. (This would jibe with a recent study that said legalizing medicinal marijuana makes our roads safer.) Since alcohol is more closely related with violent crime than is weed, violent crime overall could be dipping as a result:

“While it is important to remain cautious when interpreting these findings as evidence that [medical marijuana legalization] reduces crime, these results do fall in line with recent evidence … and they conform to the longstanding notion that marijuana legalization may lead to a reduction in alcohol use due to individuals substituting marijuana for alcohol. … Given the relationship between alcohol and violent crime [31], it may turn out that substituting marijuana for alcohol leads to minor reductions in violent crimes that can be detected at the state level.”
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Just don’t tell that to people like Nancy Grace, who insists people who are high on marijuana “kill families.”