Many arguments are made about the negatives of marijuana, such as how it affects brain development and other things of the sort. But one new argument says cannabis is leading to more murders.
Alex Berenson is the author of Tell Your Children: The Truth About Marijuana, Mental Illness, and Violence, and has been in the news recently for exposing the "truth" about marijuana. In an op-ed for the New York Times, Berenson writes that marijuana has led to an increase in violent crime and murders in states that legalized cannabis.
"Because marijuana can cause paranoia and psychosis, and those conditions are closely linked to violence, it appears to lead to an increase in violent crime," Berenson writes. "The first four states to legalize — Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington — have seen sharp increases in murders and aggravated assaults since 2014, according to reports from the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Police reports and news articles show a clear link to cannabis in many cases."
There are several issues with Berenson's argument. The first is that there was actually an increase in murders nationwide in 2015 by about eight percent. So while it may be true that states that legalized marijuana saw an increase in murders and violent crime, the rest of the country did as well. In fact, states with legalized marijuana often saw smaller increases. For instance, Oregon's murder rate only rose by one percent in 2015, and then decreased by 11.6 percent in 2016. So it's definitely a stretch to say marijuana legalization led to an increase in murders.
Another reason it's not a great argument is that while marijuana legalization is a recent trend, marijuana consumption by adults in America has been on the rise consistently since the early 1990's. And over that time, the murder rate in the United States has been dropping. So the correlation to marijuana and murders seems even weaker.
Berenson criticizes pro-marijuana advocates because anyone who makes an argument against cannabis “may be mocked as a modern-day believer in ‘Reefer Madness,’ the notorious 1936 movie that portrays young people descending into insanity and violence after smoking marijuana.” But if you're going to make wild claims about the harms of marijuana legalization without evidence or substantiation, then you're still game for mocking.
(h/t New York Magazine)