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Somebody Needs to Tell Jeff Sessions That Legalized Marijuana Does Not Cause More Crime

The Attorney General claims legal cannabis increases crime but cops and academics both disagree.

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Since early 2017, one of the issues revolving around legalized marijuana was generated by Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Chip Somodevilla | Getty Images

An adamant opponent of legal marijuana, Sessions said in February that legalizing marijuana ends up creating violent crime. He said had this information from experts. To this point, he has not furnished that data, but it has raised the question:

Does legalized marijuana lead to higher crime?

So far, studies show that is not the case. A recent study in California actually showed just the opposite.

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No Dispensary, Higher Crime

The study by researchers from the University of Southern California and published in the Journal of Urban Economics, compared crime data in Los Angeles neighborhoods where dispensaries were closed by the city with areas where dispensaries remained open. The researchers wrote, “Contrary to popular wisdom, we find an immediate increase in crime around dispensaries ordered to close relative to those allowed to remain open."

They found that many of the crimes committed were the sort that the presence of bystanders would have stopped, such as property crimes and auto theft. They found a similar pattern in areas where restaurants were forced to close because of health violations.

Related: Oakland Strives to Rejuvenate Economically by Becoming California's Cannabis Capital

Sacramento Study

A similar study published in the Journal of Study in Alcohol and Drugs found that the presence of medical marijuana dispensaries had no discernable effect on the crime rate.

Researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles, examined the association of marijuana dispensaries and crime in 95 Sacramento census tracts. They found that violent crime and property crime varied depending on the number of commercially zoned areas, one-person households and the local unemployment rate but medical marijuana dispensaries were not a factor.

The report states that dispensaries may actually help reduce crime because many use video surveillance or hire doormen, two factors that contribute to fewer crimes in the nearby area.

Related: Getting Healthy, Not High: Using Cannabis to Fight Cancer

Denver crime increase.

It’s possible Sessions was referring to the crime increase in Denver. The number of crimes has risen 44 percent since adult-use marijuana became legal in 2012. However, local law enforcement does not believe marijuana is the issue. Denver police spokesman Sonny Jackson told the Denver Post that “crime is up,” but added,”I don’t know if you can relate it to marijuana.”

Denver has tracked marijuana-related crime since 2012, and found that such crimes constitute less than 1 percent of all crimes in the city, the Post reported. The city report found 183 crimes related to the legalized medical and adult-use marijuana industries in 2015.

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