In Seattle, number of crimes way up compared to pre-legal pot era

The 2015 crime data has been released for Seattle, and the results are not pretty for the legal marijuana advocates.

Between 2008 and 2012, the number of total crimes and property crimes in the city was stable or declining, consistent with trends at the national level.  Since adult possession of marijuana became legal in December 2012, the number of crimes has risen rapidly.

The average number of crimes per year during the post-legal pot period (2013-2015) is 17% higher than the three-year period (2010-2012) before legalization.

Population growth does not explain the abrupt change, as the annual growth rate is only about 2%.  In addition, the national crime rate has continued to decline over this period, suggesting that something unusual is going on in Seattle.

Given that we see the same pre-/post-pot legalization crime pattern in Denver, while correlation is not necessarily causation, it is certainly suggestive based on the data from these geographically distinct regions.

Time must also be taken to debunk a key talking point of legal marijuana proponents: equating the difficulties of alcohol prohibition with marijuana prohibition.  These two drugs present very different law enforcement challenges.  The former can never be effectively eliminated, whereas availability of the latter can be substantially reduced via criminalization.

The active ingredient in alcohol is, of course, ethanol.  Almost any fruit, vegetable, and grain – as well as innumerable other foods (e.g., tree sap, milk, sugar, honey, etc.) can be easily fermented into a crude alcohol with nothing more complicated than a couple of pails or other containers. Consequently, prohibiting access to the raw materials for making alcohol is impossible – it would necessitate the outlawing of food itself.

On the other hand, the main psychoactive agent in marijuana is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), and the plant used to make marijuana is the only effective plant source for THC.  Consequently, if we want to control public access to THC, banning the production or import of marijuana is all that is required.  As difficult as this has proven to be – particularly in the globalization era, whereby massive numbers of shipping containers and vessels enter the country each day, making a comprehensive search effort impractical – it is a whole different ballgame from the theoretically impossible goal of banning alcohol production.

In short, a prohibition on the materials from which alcohol is derived would lead to immediate mass starvation and, soon thereafter, the extinction of the human species (i.e., we would need to pretty much ban the biosphere), whereas a prohibition on the materials from which THC is derived requires us ONLY to criminalize a single largely commercially irrelevant, plant species.  Attempting to equate these two efforts is intellectual nonsense and belies a clear lack of knowledge regarding the underlying science behind the two drugs.

Consequently, many of those who oppose alcohol criminalization but support a marijuana prohibition are neither being hypocritical nor ignoring the negative societal and health impacts of excessive alcohol consumption.  Rather, they are being practical.  It is theoretically impossible to ban access to the raw ingredients for alcohol production.  Not so the case for access to the THC in marijuana.

As well, just a cursory look at the nations that have current prohibitions, either entirely or partially, on alcohol should cause one to question any notions of adopting this policy.

These countries are a “who's who” of domestic and international dysfunction, including India, where rapes and acid attacks against women and children are commonplace and religious strife is endemic.  Clearly not model societies for the support of alcohol prohibition.  In fact, perhaps these are cultures where an occasional drink in moderation would do some good.

On the other hand, the vast majority of stable, modern democracies prospered in the latter half of the twentieth century without legalizing marijuana.  And as Colorado and Washington State are finding out, once the genie is out of the bottle, it is hard to put back in.

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