Why Aren’t the Drug Cartels and Pimps Created By Medical Marijuana Increasing Crime?

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Gang violence, teen prostitution, and organized crime: according to Montana Republicans Mike Milburn and Wendy Warburton, the voter-approved medical marijuana initiative has turned Montana cities into crime-filled war zones barely suitable for human habitation.

It’d be a pretty convincing case, if true. What do the statistics say? Exactly the opposite, of course.

Montana’s crime rates, despite a weak economy, have actually been decreasing since the passage of the initiative.

Year Population Murder Violent Property
2004 926,920 30 29,938 27,215
2005 934,737 18 32,041 29,407
2006 944,632 17 27,784 25,387
2007 957,861 14 28,243 26,489
2008 968,035 33 29,241 26,323
2009 974,989 28 26,497 24,024

In fact, Montana has seen decreases in every single category of crime other than forcible rape (which can hardly be attributed to medical marijuana): robbery, assault, burglary, and murder, despite an increase in population over that period of time. In fact, a better case could be made that allowing medical marijuana has actually decreased crime in Montana.

As the Montana Board of Crime Control put it in March 2010, describing crime from 2008-2009:

Additionally, three law enforcement agencies reported crime data on annual summary reports, down from 7 in 2008….

Some scholars and officials have predicted that the national recession will generally cause crime to increase…. The following is a preliminary analysis of “crime in Montana” as reported by Montana’s law enforcement for 2008 and 2009.  Despite the national recession, Montana’s crime levels continue to  decrease and have for the last several years.

Surely, Representatives Milburn and Warburton have access to this data. Surely, they know that claiming that Montana is confronted by “an out-of-control organized drug trade” involving organized crime” or that “[m]otorcycle gangs and organized crime have moved into Montana to ferry drugs grown here” is incredibly damaging to Montana’s reputation as a place to work and bring jobs, live and raise a family, don’t they?

Representatives Warburton and Milburn owe it to Montanans to tell the truth about crime and drug use in our state, for the sake of our reputation and our economy, not to mention the democratic process.

On a personal note, I actually voted against the medical marijuana initiative in 2004. I’ve never used marijuana or any illegal drug, and as an educator, have concerns about the use of marijuana by adolescents. I would agree with a sensible plan to regulate the industry, as we do most drugs, and would support a GOP plan to do so. Given their willingness to substitute transparently false claims for evidence, they are alienating the very people who would probably agree with them.

It’s a real shame that they’d rather demagogue than govern.

About the author

Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba is a seventeen-year teacher of English, former debate coach, and loyal, if often sad, fan of the San Diego Padres and Portland Timbers. He spends far too many hours of his life working at school and on his small business, Big Sky Debate.

His work has appeared in Politico and Rewire.

In the past few years, travel has become a priority, whether it's a road trip to some little town in Montana or a museum of culture in Ísafjörður, Iceland.

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