The Sad Search to Find Anything Negative About Marijuana Legalization

Cannabis Colorado Legalization Increased Crime

Prohibitionists try to connect cannabis legalization with violent crime, but don’t have the facts to back them up.


George Brauchler, a prosecutor in the suburban counties to the east and south of Denver, is one of the hopefuls looking to become Colorado’s next governor.

In the Trump era, being governor of a western state where marijuana is legal means protecting the local cannabis industry against threats from the federal Justice Department. But in Brauchler’s estimation, marijuana’s greatest threat is itself. And it might be, if Brauchler were the least bit honest. Instead, he’s running with a war on facts that’s even more dangerous.

Brauchler opposed Amendment 64 in 2012, and since then, as Colorado records more than $1.3 billion a year in commercial cannabis sales, he’s remained unswayed, mostly because he believes marijuana legalization has been a menace to society. “Whatever benefits there may be from the legalization of marijuana, eradicating violent crime associated with it is not one of them,” he said in a recent statement.

See here: Since Colorado voters legalized recreational marijuana in 2012, cultivators and dispensaries have been the target of “significant violent crime,” Brauchler claims in a recent post over at Westword. In that time, Brauchler’s area, home to 45 percent more people than the city of Denver, has seen no fewer than 11 murders “motivated by marijuana,” including an as-yet unsolved shooting death of a dispensary security guard.

“Those eleven homicides do not include the many more robbery, burglary, and attempted-murder cases in our community also motivated by marijuana,” says Brauchler. Across the state, he claims, criminal-justice colleagues across the state are “overwhelmed with trying to enforce the crimes involving marijuana.”

Eleven murders! Sounds bad. And it is. It’s bad math, bad public policy, and a bad, bad display of the great lengths to which legalization opponents must go, stretching truths and twisting facts into unrecognizable braids of dishonesty in order to make their case.

For Coloradans, “there have been increases in marijuana-related traffic deaths, poison control calls, and emergency room costs,” according to an anti-legalization petition being circulated by the Centennial Institute, a think-tank at the Trump-loving Colorado Christian University. “The effects in Colorado have been devastating, and we do not wish these negative consequences of legalization upon the nation.”

What’s afoot? “Know that in Colorado there have been increases in marijuana-related traffic deaths, poison control calls, and emergency room costs. States that have legalized medicinal and recreational marijuana have the highest youth use rates in the country,” according to the petition. A similar message was recently printed in USA Today, which ran with a headline declaring that Colorado has been “devastated” by legalization. Poor, poor Colorado!

This is a near-perfect rote repetition of the Bible for the prohibition set, a certain report produced by the Rocky Mountain High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, or HIDTA. HIDTAs are initiatives overseen by the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, which is prohibited by act of Congress from supporting legalization. In most circles, this is known as an institutional bias. And the HIDTA report has alternately been blasted as “fake,” “dishonest,” or at the best, inconclusive in showing whether or not statistically significant but numerically very small increases — from a hundred to several hundred, for example — in emergency-room visits are caused by marijuana legalization.

As for Brauchler, his laser focus on eleven homicides over a nearly five-year period is baffling. Colorado sees more than 200 homicides and more than 300 overdoses related to prescription opioids a year. Seems like someone should be doing something about that, or at least raising the issue.

Not Brauchler. Not all of those deaths were in Brauchler’s district, but here’s a prosecutor, in a state where deaths from prescription opiates outnumber all murders by more than 50 percent, honing in instead on just a select few murders, which might be connected to marijuana.

What’s he doing? Why does he care so much about finding fault with legalization when far greater evils stalk the land? It’s called ideology, and in Brauchler’s case, it’s called failed ideology. He may win over some fellow anti-legalization zealots, but this is no way to run a political campaign. It’s also no way to behave as a public servant ostensibly in charge of the health and welfare of the public.

TELL US, dare you buying into the idea that cannabis legalization increases crime?

Chris Roberts has written about medical cannabis, drug policy, and legalization ever since spending a few months in Humboldt County in 2009, with bylines for the San Francisco Chronicle, San Francisco Examiner, and SF Weekly. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @cbloggy.

4 Comments

  1. Tom

    September 17, 2017 at 12:44 pm

    One of the problems with this article (and its author) is that it first captures attention with a very broad and sweeping headline only to specifically argue about crimes related to marijuana. I get it, he has a problem with an anti-pot prosecutor named George Brauchler and his statements surrounding correlation and causation.

    As for the article itself, it’s a bit too dismissive of 11 marijuana deaths that have occurred and cites “opinions” printed in the Denver posts and Forbes magazine. His only legitimate source is from Factcheck.org that show correlation but is cautious about causation in- auto accidents, a topic not even relevant to his argument about pot-related homicides. This could have been a much better article but the author’s bias interferes with the fact that trouble still follows the pot industry and he won’t admit it. Instead, of informing, he condescends and passive-aggressively so. He uses faulty logic like false equivalencies, bandwagon groupthink, and confirmation bias by cherry-picking data from Factcheck.org. Rather than saying we need more information and allowing the reader to decide, he takes a side, and that’s not exactly objective journalism. But then again, this is Cannabis Now, so take that into consideration. Faulty logic is easy to take apart if you know what to look for.

  2. joe smith

    September 13, 2017 at 8:08 am

    Jesus himself condemns those holier than thou religious types “They strain at a gnat, but they swallow a camel.” And “They keep the outside of the cup clean, but leave the inside full of extortion.” Another place he called them vipers. I’ll stop now. Nothing changed for thousands of years…

  3. Clayton McCann

    September 5, 2017 at 6:40 am

    The only increase in crime attributable to MJ is consuming MJ itself, a federal offense, the #1 federal crime committed in America, year-in, year-out, as the tedious War On Drugs rages on. For free thinking men and women, the war is real, and it is waged by stupidity against the forces of reason and civilization. It is supported by law enforcement agencies who get mega-dollars to fight the imaginary menace, and by right-wing, anti-civil liberty, anti-women’s rights, racist, xenophobic, anti-lgbtqetc., authoritarian nut jobs. How long do people have to wait, I wonder, for the freedom train? I hear a lot of talk, but yesterday they came and tore down the station. Budget cuts.

  4. lovingc

    August 31, 2017 at 9:49 am

    Christians have become anything but christ like. This doofus needs to be rebuked at the polls. His ideas are full of easily provable lies. He is looking for the dissatisfied.

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