Concerns in Florida Over Increased Crime Rate and Medical Marijuana

As Florida Faces Medical Marijuana Amendment, Opponents Raise Concerns Over Increased Crime Rate

increased crime rateThe state of Florida will become the first state in the US to put an amendment to legalize medical marijuana in the state on their ballot this coming November. While almost half of the states in the US have legalized medical marijuana in some form, Florida’s amendment is a much stronger law, and as part of the state constitution, would be harder to rescind or override.

Many lawmakers in the state oppose Amendment 2, which could legalize medical marijuana for the millions of residents in the Sunshine State. Some counties have even said that they would find ways to delay distribution of medical marijuana if Amendment 2 passes in November.

Opponents of the amendment have also raised concerns over an increased crime rate that could be associated with a more wide-spread use of drugs. However, a recent study has shown that those concerns may be unfounded.

“I haven’t seen anything that suggests medical marijuana leads to an increase in crime,” said Ben Pollara, spokesman for United for Care, the group campaigning to in favor of Amendment 2. A handful of studies looking at rates of violent crime, such as burglaries and armed robberies, as well as rates of medical marijuana use, show that there is not a link between the two as there is with other types of addictive drugs like crack cocaine or heroin.

Many states and Washington, DC, that legalized medical marijuana before 2011 in fact show a 20.4% decrease in violent crimes. In contrast, states that have not yet legalized medical marijuana have shown a 13.8% decrease in violent crime, according to FBI data.

One of the most prominent such studies was conducted by the University of Texas, and looked at violent crime data from 1990 to 2006, during which 11 states legalized medical marijuana of some type. The study, published this past March in the journal PLoS ONE, defined violent crime as homicide, rape, robbery, assault, burglary, larceny, and automobile theft. The study accounted for additional factors in violent crimes, such as poverty, unemployment, college education, amount of prison inmates in the state, even rates of alcohol consumption among the general population.

“I can say very confidently that it (legalization of medical marijuana) does not increase crime,” said Robert Morris, associate professor of criminology at the University of Texas at Dallas, who led the study.

The study included crimes against medical marijuana dispensaries, which in some areas have become targets for burglary.

“Even specifically looking at that, we found no impact on the crime rate around dispensaries,” Morris said.

However, when looking at rates of illegal street drug sales, some Florida lawmakers remain skeptical.

Bradenton Police Chief Michael Radzilowski cited rates of street-level sales of marijuana in Colorado, one of two states that has completely legalized use of the drug, even for recreational purposes. Radzilowski says that illegal sales of the drug have also increased, not decreased, which means that crime is up in the state.

“It’s made the problem worse,” he said.

The High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas Program, a federal program that provides assistance to law enforcement agents, cites crime in Colorado as having increased 6.7% since the beginning of 2014.

However, Denver Police state that violent crime specifically decreased in Colorado 3.9% since January of this year, while crime overall decreased 9%. The conflicting information makes votes for medical marijuana in the rest of the US very difficult, including South Carolina, where a panel of lawmakers is discussing potential medical marijuana legislation.

If You Face Marijuana Charges, Including for Medical Marijuana Use Charges, The Strom Law Firm Can Help

Although many states have passed medical marijuana legislation, South Carolina still has not legalized the use of marijuana for recreational or medical reasons. You could be charged with drug possessionIf you or a loved one have been found with medical marijuana, you could face criminal charges ranging from misdemeanor to felony, depending on how much marijuana was on your person, and what your intent was with the drug. The drug crimes attorneys at the Strom Law Firm can help. Do not let drug charges for medical marijuana hurt your reputation or your future aspirations. We offer free, confidential consultations to discuss the facts of your case. Contact us today for help. 803.252.4800

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