View Mobile Site

So how has medical pot reduced crime?

Text Size: Small Large Medium
POSTED October 22, 2015 12:41 a.m.

I get that marijuana works for some who are sick.

But I also get that marijuana continues to be a source of revenue for gangs — large and small — to finance their lifestyle. Those who think otherwise need to ask themselves how many gang members do you think are working 9 to 5?

And to be clear a gang under California law consists of three or more people aligned informally or formally to engage in criminal activity.

The Lathrop City Council this week took the step to ban all growing of marijuana within its city limits even for medicinal purposes for those with a medical marijuana card. And while you debate for hours whether the majority of those with such cards are really ill based on Bay Area “health clinics” that will issue the cards for $75 after an exhaustive five-minute exam, let’s just assume all of the folks with medical marijuana cards are legit.

It is against that backdrop that two people have been murdered in Lathrop during the past three years in incidents directly involving the cultivation of marijuana.

Manteca allows those with medical pot cards to cultivate pot. Ask the Manteca Police sometime about crime connected with such grows. There have been thefts, robberies and assaults in connection with legitimate growers. They may be growing it for their own use but it has a street value that makes it appealing to criminals not to mention impulsive teens/young adults looking to score some pot.

Then there are those who use medical marijuana as an excuse to have a lucrative side business. There is a reason such growers that aren’t quite big time still have weapons around where their plants are located.

It is why state and Manteca laws limit the number of plants a medical marijuana card holder can have while the city has specific requirements about how they must be contained so they are not visible from someone looking over a fence.

Proponents to legalize recreational use of marijuana in California argue it will reduce crime. If that’s the case marijuana-related crime should have dropped since voters passed Proposition 215 in 1996 to allow consumption for medical purposes. Aside from the 2010 state law that made recreational marijuana possession of up to one ounce an infraction just like a traffic violation, it is doubtful there has been any downward trend in marijuana related crimes.

If California had 572,762 medical marijuana patients in 2014 — or  3 out of every 200 residents —there would have to have been some notable drop in pot-related crime such as murder, assault, robbery, and theft.

Legalizing recreational pot use won’t reduce crime.

There are those that assume there will be enough legitimate and honest pot entrepreneurs to effectively reduce crime.

Here’s the problem with that argument. We have huge “black markets” for all sorts of goods today because those selling the items do so without collecting taxes as they are legally required to do and conduct their business with minimal overhead. As a result buyers can save a lot of money. That is especially true with “vices” such as cigarettes in places like New York City have created a strong black market thanks to punitive taxes.

With typical sales tax close to 10 percent in most California jurisdictions plus the cost associated with having a storefront operation it is easy to see how gangs and others could continue to thrive after any legalization of marijuana for recreational purposes.

Legalizing marijuana would probably increase its use providing even more revenue opportunity for criminals whether they are gang members or independents.

There are researchers who already believe marijuana is California’s No. 1 cash crop in terms of how much money it generates on the street.

Obviously things aren’t exactly going swimmingly in the current efforts to keep the lid on illegal marijuana use.

But if you think letting the genie completely out of the bottle will somehow ease criminal activity it isn’t going to happen.

Bootleggers virtually vanished after Prohibition because it isn’t exactly easy to ferment liquor in sufficient quantities without being rather obvious. Then there is the issue of selling it. Someone with an out-of-the-way warehouse, a remote rural patch of property or a rented McMansion can raise an incredible amount of money.

To rely on the assumption that legalization will somehow drive down prices far enough to make it unappealing for criminals and gangs to profit via black market sales is like betting the farm on the Chicago Cubs winning the World Series.

It’s something that could happen but history proves it is highly unlikely.



This column is the opinion of executive editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA.  He can be contacted at dwyatt@mantecabulletin.com or 209.249.3519.

Commenting is not available.

Commenting not available.

Please wait ...