If Californians Legalize Marijuana, Will Pot-Related Crime Come To An End?

Will legalizing pot in California end marijuana-related crime?
Will legalizing pot in California end marijuana-related crime?
themadpothead via Flickr

We set off a minor blaze of debate when we questioned whether fully legalizing pot in California would really change the criminal economics behind this fruitful weed.

After all, you Golden State citizens legalized medical pot in 1996, and the criminal element in cannabis cultivation and importation only seems to have grown more violent since then. Since spring there have been five people murdered in medical-marijuana related cases in L.A. County that we can count off the top of our head.

The cartels continue to send folks with duffel bags full of weed across the border. Is all that green going to illicit dealers, or will some of it end up in some of those dispensaries with menus deeper than the wine list at Bouchon?

On Tuesday we'll get a better idea of how Prop. 19, the Golden State's November ballot initiative that would make it fully legal for those 21 and older to hold an ounce of weed, will affect the criminal aspect of the pot business.

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RAND is unleashing a study on legalization and the cartels. Check back here for our report.

In the meantime, our commenter du jour, Econotarian, writes:

We already experienced this after the end of alcohol Prohibition. Prices dropped, American corporations answerable to both the law and taxpayers took over the alcohol industry from illegal distillers, and the product became safer and cheaper. Use went up to some extent. But criminal violence went down.

This blog entry makes me think of those who blamed "The Hun" for his "demon beer" and "The Papists" for insisting on wine for sacrament during alcohol prohibition . I see no much has changed in almost a century.

Marijuana distributors are being targetted for crime because their product still costs too much because it can not be mass produced. On the other hand, murder rates city-wide are down because gangs no longer have control of the drug trade.

After Prop 19, robbing a store with pot won't be worthwhile, as it won't be worth $300/ounce, but more like $20/ounce or less before sales tax.

Do you agree?


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