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Legalizing Marijuana Helps Police Solve Other Crimes, New Study Shows

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Marijuana activists have long argued that legalization would free up police departments to focus on other crimes. But six years after Colorado and Washington State voted to end prohibition, what does the evidence show?

A new study published in the journal Police Quarterly indicates that advocates were right after all. Police clearance rates—a figure that represents the number of crimes that resulted in an arrest divided by the total number of reported crimes—increased in both states post-legalization.

Logically, the argument makes sense. Before a state makes it legal to possess marijuana, for example, there are officers who will take time to investigate and charge individuals for low-level cannabis offenses. But when a state legalizes, they no longer have to allocate law enforcement resources to marijuana-related crimes, thereby enabling officers to go after different, and sometimes more serious, cases.

But up until this study, there wasn’t much researching exploring the direct relationship between legalization and crime clearance rates. For the first time, researchers demonstrated that—in Colorado and Washington State, at least—police were able to make more arrests for various crimes post-legalization. That includes violent crimes, property crimes, burglaries and motor vehicle thefts.

“While our results cannot specifically explain why police clearance rates have increased in Colorado and Washington, we think the argument that legalization did in fact produce a measurable impact on clearance rates is plausible,” the researchers concluded. “Our models show no negative effects of legalization and, instead, indicate that crime clearance rates for at least some types of crime are increasing faster in states that legalized than in those that did not.”

“As we document here, prior to legalization, several crimes clearance rates were either flat or decreasing. However, in the post-legalization period, we see considerable improvement. We cannot offer with absolute certainty that these changes are entirely the result of marijuana legalization, though we are quite certain that legalization has not unduly hampered police performance, at least as measured by clearance rates. Moreover, in the absence of other compelling explanations, the current evidence suggests that legalization produced some demonstrable and persistent benefit in clearance rates, benefits we believe are associated with the marijuana legalization proponents’ prediction that legalization would positively influence police performance.”

Alright, so how did crime clearance rates change post-legalization?

There were some modest differences in clearance rates between Colorado and Washington State, but the overall trend revealed an increase in these two states compared to all other states, the study found. Here’s a breakdown of the clearance rate changes for four different crime types:

Marijuana possession arrest rate

Likely the most obvious result of marijuana legalization at the state-level is that arrests for marijuana possession would decrease. Dramatic declines in cannabis possession rates were observed in Colorado and Washington State following the passage of legalization initiatives in 2012.

Violent crime

Clearance rates for violent crimes were steadily declining in Colorado and Washington State before the states legalized marijuana. In Colorado, those clearance rates slightly increased and stabilized post-legalization. In Washington State, violent crime clearance rates also increased after the end of cannabis prohibition.

“Conversely, while there was a jump in the trend line for average violent clearance rate at the point of intervention at the national level, post-intervention clearance trends did not shift upward as occurred in the treatment states,” the study authors wrote. “This set of findings suggests that right around the time of legalization, clearance rates trends seemed to increase for violent crime in general for both Colorado and Washington, though no similar shifts are noted for the country as a whole.”

Property crime

While many pro-legalization have contended that cannabis reform would result in more police officers focusing on more serious crimes, “it is likely that police already spent a significant amount of resources investigating more serious crimes,” the study authors wrote.

And so one of the study’s more significant findings concerns property crimes—clearance rates for which significantly increased in Colorado and Washington State post-legalization. Meanwhile, the U.S. average property crime clearance rate decreased during the same time period.

“[I]n the absence of other compelling explanations, the current evidence suggests that legalization produced some demonstrable and persistent benefit in clearance rates, benefits we believe are associated with the marijuana legalization proponents’ prediction that legalization would positively influence police performance,” the study’s conclusion reads.

Legalizing Marijuana Doesn’t Lead To Higher Youth Use, New Study Shows

Marijuana Moment is made possible with support from readers. If you rely on our cannabis advocacy journalism to stay informed, please consider a monthly Patreon pledge.

Kyle Jaeger is Marijuana Moment's Los Angeles-based associate editor. His work has also appeared in High Times, VICE and attn.

Science & Health

Dogs Treated With Cannabis Oil Experience Less Frequent Seizures, Study Finds

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Dogs with epilepsy experience considerably fewer seizures when treated with CBD oil, a new study published in the journal Pet Behaviour Science found.

The small study—which followed three dogs receiving hemp-derived CBD treatment over the course of two months, indicates that dogs respond to the cannabis compound in a way that’s similar to humans.

The dogs ranged in age and breed. One was a three-year-old Labrador Retriever that suffered seizures spaced out one month apart on average, another was an 11-year-old Papillon that experienced seizures every two to three months and the last was a 10-year-old Chihuahua that has infrequent seizures about twice a year.

For the experiment, each dog was treated with CBD twice a day on an empty stomach. The findings are based on reports from the owners, two out of three of whom said the treatment improved their dog’s condition. The Papillon’s owner said the dog’s condition was unchanged.

“The owner [of the Labrador Retriever] reported that the dog slept longer and barked less in the daytime, even when other dogs were excited, during the first two weeks than in the preceding weeks,” the study authors wrote. “Overall, the owner felt that the dog showed improvement.”

“The owner [of the Chihuahua] felt that seizure-like behavior during the attacks had decreased slightly with treatment,” they wrote. “The owner also reported that the dog showed less aggression toward familiar people, such as the owner’s children.”

While the sample size of the study is particularly small, making it difficult to draw broad conclusions, the researchers said “seizure frequency improved considerably and owners reported a positive impression” of the CBD treatment.

It’s not clear if the same biochemical mechanisms that make CBD an effective treatment for epilepsy in humans produced the effects in the dogs. It’s possible that, because seizures can be triggered by anxiety, the same “anxiolytic effect may attenuate the symptoms of epilepsy in dogs as well as humans.”

“Further research is needed for better understanding the neurobiological mechanisms of CBD treatment,” the researchers wrote.

Last year, a separate study determined that CBD can alleviate the symptoms of osteoarthritis in dogs.

Dogs With Arthritis Benefit From Cannabis Oil, Study Says

Photo courtesy of Pexels.

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Science & Health

Study Finds Marijuana Motivates People To Exercise, Smashing Lazy Stoner Stereotype

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Most people who use marijuana report that consuming before or after exercising improves the experience and aids in recovery, according to a new study. And those who do use cannabis to elevate their workout tend to get a healthier amount of exercise.

Researchers at the University of Colorado surveyed more than 600 marijuana consumers in states where it is legal to assess how people use cannabis in relation to exercise. Their results, published this month in the journal Frontiers in Public Health, poke yet another hole in the lazy, couch-locked stoner stereotype.

Almost 500 participants said they endorse using marijuana one hour before, or up to four hours after, exercising. And based on data from the questionnaire, those who did use cannabis in that timeframe worked out longer than consumers who didn’t pair the activities. Specifically, those who engaged in co-use worked out an average of 43 minutes longer for aerobic exercise and 30 minutes longer for anaerobic exercise.

What’s behind the trend?

There are a few known barriers to exercise that researchers have identified: a lack of motivation, difficult recovery after working out and low enjoyment of the activity. Cannabis seems to help lift those barriers for some individuals.

Seventy percent of respondents said they agree or strongly agree that “cannabis increases enjoyment of exercise,” 78 percent said that marijuana “enhances recovery from exercise” and just over 50 percent said that it “increases motivation.”

“To our knowledge, this is the first study to survey attitudes and behavior regarding the use of cannabis before and after exercise, and to examine differences between cannabis users who engage in co-use, compared to those who do not,” the study authors wrote. “Given both the spreading legalization of cannabis and the low rates of physical activity in the US, it behooves public health officials to understand the potential effects—both beneficial and harmful—of cannabis use on exercise behaviors.”

While it might seem counterintuitive given how cannabis consumers have typically been portrayed in media, there’s a growing body of research showing that many marijuana enthusiasts engage in active lifestyles and that cannabis is associated with positive health outcomes. For example, another recent study found that people who use marijuana are less likely to be obese compared to non-users.

Marijuana Consumers Gain Less Weight Than Non-Users, Study Confirms

Photo courtesy of Brian Shamblen.

Marijuana Moment is made possible with support from readers. If you rely on our cannabis advocacy journalism to stay informed, please consider a monthly Patreon pledge.
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Politics

Another Federal Agency Wants You To Stop Calling About A Marijuana-Related Job

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Six days after posting a notice that calls for a contractor to prepare and distribute research drug products like marijuana cigarettes, a federal agency posted an update, emphasizing that private citizens are not being encouraged to apply for a casual joint-rolling job.

Why? Well, it might have something to do with various viral articles reporting on the opening—and readers who then volunteer for the role.

On Monday, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) added an unambiguous message at the top of the notice: “THE FOLLOWING IS A PRE-SOLICITATION NOTICE and is NOT ADVERTISEMENT FOR EMPLOYMENT.

The situation seems similar to another recent example that prompted the Houston division of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to ask private citizens to stop calling about a contractor opening to incinerate thousands of pounds of cannabis per hour.

The division wrote last month that “misleading articles” about the position “resulted in an influx of calls from citizens.”

“This solicitation was targeted for a large scale licensed vendor, not private citizens,” they wrote.

But according to NIDA, their problem isn’t quite as severe. In an email to Marijuana Moment, a representative of the agency said it has “only received a few public inquiries.” The spokesperson did not respond to a follow up question about the reasoning behind the update.

For serious candidates, the position isn’t as simple as rolling a massive amount of joints. The contractor must have “the capability to analyze and characterize various drugs of abuse including cannabinoids and other research chemicals” and also “acquire, develop, and produce marijuana and nicotine research cigarettes of varying strengths and specifications.”

NIDA posted several cannabis-related contract notices last year, including for professional joint rollers and bulk marijuana manufacturers.

The DEA Wants You To Stop Calling Them About Getting Paid To Burn Marijuana

Photo courtesy of Philip Steffan.

Marijuana Moment is made possible with support from readers. If you rely on our cannabis advocacy journalism to stay informed, please consider a monthly Patreon pledge.
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