This paper examines whether the legalization of marijuana has contributed to crime rates around Colorado and Washington. Specifically, the primary objective of this paper is to analyze incident based crime rates in a 1,400-ft radius around each dispensary before and after legalization. I collected incident-based crime data from cities across Colorado and Washington from January 2009 to November 2014. For the control variables, I primarily used census block groups around each dispensary and employment data collected from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). After sorting each variable into sub-categories, I am able to test my hypothesis at different levels across the dataset. Aggregate data analysis supports the hypothesis that legalizing recreational marijuana would have no statistically significant effect on crime in Colorado and Washington. Categorizing my results suggest crimes such as Burglary and Robbery increased by up to 111%, while Vandalism and ‘All Other Crimes’ decreased by up to 130% since legalization.
This paper synthesizes prevailing theories on optimal crime control, recidivism, and analyses of the determinants of drug use and offers suggestions to improve correctional efficiency through alternative means of drug prohibition punishments. It is likely that reduced crime rates, recidivism rates, inmate populations, and correctional costs without significant negative externalities could result from alterations in drug prohibition laws and enforcement policies. The decriminalization of all or most illicit drugs is suggested to be the most efficient means of controlling illicit drug use and should reduce the resources necessary for the maintenance of drug control policy.