Maybe NYPD Police Commissioner Bill Bratton has been toking on a little bit of the devil’s lettuce himself. I don’t know. But he apparently thinks a slight eight week rise in New York homicides is connected somehow to legalized pot:
The seemingly innocent drug that’s been legalized around the country. In this city, people are killing each other over marijuana more so than anything that we had to deal with in the 80s and 90s with heroin and cocaine. We just see marijuana everywhere when we make these arrests, when we get these guns off the streets.
Here’s the thing. His whole argument is a series of causal fallacies. For one, marijuana might be present on violent criminals because violent criminals smoke marijuana. Does that mean marijuana contributes to violent crimes? Not necessarily.
The illegality of marijuana is what makes it such a hot commodity for theft, and its also what relegates it so specifically to the criminal underground. If marijuana were legal, a thriving and violent black market for its distribution would shrivel up. Want proof? How about looking at the statistics for violent crime in Colorado for last year. Homicides are down 24%:
Homicides dropped 24 percent in Denver last year, the first full year of legalization in Colorado. Robberies were down 3 percent. Burglary was down 9.5 percent. The only crimes that increased significantly were larceny (a property crime, not a violent crime) and arson, which seems unlikely to be related to marijuana. Overall, violent crime dropped 0.7 percent, and property crime dropped 2 percent.
Is that drop in violent crime due to legalizing pot? I don’t know. I don’t want to commit the same causal fallacy that Bratton did. But it certainly indicates that homicide rates and the existence of pot are not absolutely correlative. Aside from all that, Bratton is basing his wild speculations on two months of data. That’s not exactly conclusive.
At the end of the day, New York’s attitude about guns and pot are the same: they’ve been abused, so let’s make them illegal. By making them illegal, they’ve also made them more dangerous. Which apparently justifies their stance that they should be illegal. Because they are so dangerous. And the cycle deepens and worsens. Perhaps we should try a different tack? Or is that too reasonable?