Whether Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper wants it or not, all eyes are on him and the state of Colorado as marijuana legalization and legislature continue to push forward in the United States. According to CNN, Hickenlooper is faced with a few hard facts as the crime rate in the state of Colorado has continued to climb since 2014 when recreational marijuana became legal. Unsurprisingly, whether the crime rate increase and the legalization of recreational marijuana are directly connected is a heated debate across the country.
“Trust me, if the data was coming back and we saw spikes in violent crime, we saw spikes in overall crime, there would be a lot of people looking for that bottle and figuring out how we get the genie back in. It doesn’t seem likely to me, but I’m not ruling it out.”
As the data starts to pour in, the state’s crime rate appears to be up 5 percent from the year before recreational marijuana was legalized. Violent crimes increased 12.5 percent, while the national increase average was only 5 percent. During an interview with CNN, Hickenlooper was very clear in the fact that he was not ready to put the blame completely on marijuana. Some might find this information shocking considering the Colorado Governor was not initially supportive of legalizing marijuana in his state.
“This is one of the great social experiments of the last 100 years. We have to all keep an open mind.”
The Crime Rate Data Is Conflicting
Even the Denver Police believes the Denver crime rate is inconclusive. Denver Police Commander James Henning notes the “biggest driver” of crime in the city of Denver is property related.
“So, can you attribute that to marijuana? I don’t think you can. The data isn’t there.”
While the police force did have to bring in additional officers to properly handle the weed market, it does not necessarily mean marijuana is directly related to the crime rate increase.
Henning also noted there is a bit of a gray area when it comes to properly cataloging a crime and whether marijuana had anything to do with it.
“If a marijuana dispensary is burglarized, is that because it was a marijuana dispensary or if it were a liquor store or a stereo store would it have been burglarized as well? The data is so tough to nail down and say this crime happened because of marijuana. It’s just almost impossible to do that.”
Larimer County Sheriff Justin Smith of Fort Collins is one of the handful of law enforcement officers in the state of Colorado that openly blame the legalization of recreational marijuana on the crime rate increase. The sheriff clarified that while he does not think someone who smokes marijuana is more likely to “rob a bank” than someone who does not consume marijuana, he does believe the legalization attracted unsavory individuals to move to the state. In fact, he claims roughly 33 percent of inmates at Larimer County jail tell him they came to the state “for marijuana.”
At this point in time, John Hickenlooper does not appear to sway one way or the other regarding whether marijuana is causing the increase in crime and whether it should be re-criminalized. He believes additional and more concrete data and evidence is needed to make any type of decision on this matter.