With this last election, as Alaska, Oregon and our nation’s capital joined Washington and Colorado in legalizing marijuana use within their borders. But what about the effects has the legalization of marijuana had on incarceration rates in states where it's been legalized? Will legalization lower prison populations, ease the strain on law enforcement agencies and help lower crime by allowing law enforcement officers to pursue more serious crimes? Here's what we've discovered, looking both nationwide and to our eastern neighbor Colorado, whose legalization of recreational marijuana use made national headlines last fall:
Though one would expect to see significant decreases in the number of people arrested for marijuana possession and use after legalization, there have actually been some other areas which have also had surprisingly low statistics for arrests and prosecutions. Whether it's just the quiet, happy feeling calming the inner road rage or people not going on the road after consuming marijuana, with California, Hawaii and Rhode Island each seeing sharp drops in traffic fatalities after medical marijuana was legalized, according to a Forbes article earlier this year. This is attributed in the Washington Post to a substitution effect, as people substitute marijuana use for alcohol use.
Legalized Marijuana and Changes in Usage
A report prepared by the Kentucky Legislative Research Commission found that in most states where medical marijuana had been legalized, there was either a small increase (1.7% or less), no notable change or a strong decrease (up to 9.2%) in marijuana use following legalization. Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper stated in a recent Forbes interview that after six months of legalization, the state hadn't seen any serious upswing in usage. There has been an increase in "marijuana tourists" in the state, as people traveling to buy marijuana has increased, but this also creates an increase in the economy through related travel expenses such as fuel, lodging and dining.
Legalized Marijuana and Changes in Crime Statistics
After Colorado legalized marijuana last fall, speculation was rampant that the crime rate would increase. A year later, those higher rates have not only not materialized, they've actually dropped. According to a recent report by the City of Denver, property crime declined 7.7% and violent crime declined 2.4% when comparing the first ten months of 2013 (before legalization) to the first ten months of 2014 (after legalization). What's more, this has taken place while making the state what's estimated to be just shy of $29 million dollars in tax revenues by the end of September to support schools and other initiatives as marijuana tourism becomes more popular.
Where Utah Stands on Legalized Marijuana
There are few proponents of legalization in Utah's state government, with a few individuals stepping out of the shadows in the name of medical marijuana. In Utah, possession or sale of marijuana or paraphernalia in any amount carries a minimum of a misdemeanor or felony, fines and jail time, and revocation of your driver's license for six months if convicted. If you need a bail bond company you can trust, contact Bad Boys Bail Bonds, a family-owned professional company open 24 hours a day 365 days a year.
What do you think of the legalization of marijuana? What about the uses of hemp? Tell us in the comments!