It's been two years since Colorado legalized marijuana. While detractors warned that legalizing and decriminalizing the recreational use of marijuana would lead to an escalation in crime because people under the influence of the drug would commit more crimes, in most cases, it seems as though the opposite is true.
Overall Crime Rate Down
Image via Flickr by Brett Levin Photography
According to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, the state saw an overall decrease of 1 percent in reported crimes for 2014. The state also saw an overall decrease of 2.5 percent in the crime rate per 100,000 people. Digging even deeper, Colorado experienced a 3.1 percent drop in property crimes and a 12.8 percent decrease in homicides.
Lower Crime in Denver
In Denver, which is the hub of legal pot sales as well as the capital and the most populous city in the state, assaults, murders, burglaries, rapes, and other violent crimes also declined during the first three months of 2014 when compared with the same time period in 2013. Automobile break-ins went from 2,317 to 1,477, which represents a 36 percent decrease. Homicides went from 17 to 8, which is a 53 percent decrease, and sexual assaults went from 110 to 95 — a 14 percent drop.
Additionally, total burglaries in Denver went from 5,094 in 2013 to 4,594 in 2014, which is about a 10 percent drop. In 2013, there were 1,137 reported robberies in the city, yet in 2014 this dropped 3 percent to 1,099. Finally, licensed marijuana facilities in the city also saw a decrease in burglaries. In 2013, there were 147 burglaries reported in Denver. However, in 2014 there were 118 burglaries reported at licensed marijuana facilities.
A Decline in Charges
Not surprisingly, one area in the Colorado court system that has seen a major decrease of activity is allegations of marijuana crimes. In 2010, which was two years before the legalization of marijuana, Colorado prosecutors filed over 11,000 charges alleging a violation of marijuana laws. While most of these cases were only one marijuana-related charge, sometimes prosecutors would file multiple charges against one defendant. However, in 2014 the number of charges dropped to around 3,500 charges. Additionally, through October 2015, these charges dropped even more, to about 2,100.
One Area of Dramatic Increase
While there's been a decrease in overall crime and many specific crimes, there has been one area where there's been a dramatic increase: arrests for public display or public consumption of marijuana in city parks. While recreational use of marijuana is legal, it's still illegal to use or display it in public. As such, in 2013 there were 184 public display or consumption violations; yet in 2014 there was a combined total 1,186 violations. The Drug Policy Alliance believes that part of this increase comes from greater attention from law enforcement.
While both critics and advocates point out that it's too early to know whether the decrease in crime is directly related to the legalization of marijuana, these statistics do show that the detractors who thought crime would grow after legalization were wrong.