Smoke and Mirrors: The Unintended Public Safety Effects of Marijuana Legalization
MetadataShow full item record
Existing research on the indirect societal impacts of marijuana legalization is piecemeal and tends to under-emphasize the strains placed on the public safety apparatus as a result of increased access and availability to a federally unregulated substance. To examine the effect geographic proximity to marijuana dispensaries has on Colorado’s state-wide crime rates, this paper conducts clustering analyses on public safety data from the years following Colorado’s legalization policy enacted in 2012. The analyses targeted reported crime from 2013-2018 throughout Colorado to determine the predictive power of geographic inputs for crimes specifically associated with the growing legal marijuana industry. There is an historic over-emphasis placed on the primary health effects resulting from marijuana legalization with minimal insight to how secondary criminal activity, directly linked to a growing legal market, impacts communities differently. The results offer strong support for the hypothesis that, in the absence of strategic planning addressing the sociocultural vulnerabilities of a community, marijuana legalization policy heightens criminal activity proximal to the densest areas of legal marijuana dispensaries where availability and accessibility are highest.