While California’s recreational marijuana market is projected to rake in a whopping $5.1 billion in 2018, some parts of the state say the payoff is murder. In Sonoma County, which is around 100 miles outside San Francisco, some officials are complaining that all of this legal weed business has done nothing for their community but spawn “home invasions, violent crimes and robberies,” according to a report from the Cloverdale Reveille.
It seems that bad mama jama’s from the East Coast are traveling across the country with the sole intention of using the Golden State’s legal marijuana status to run a racket of extreme thievery. These types of crimes have become a common occurrence in the areas of Coverdale, Santa Rosa, Sebastopol and Petaluma. The goal of these criminal organizations, the report reads, is to get their hands on legal weed, by any means necessary, and then transport it back to the east coast for sale on the black market.
Sergeant Spencer Crum of the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Department claims “bodies have piled up,” as a result of this scheme.This is not the first time legal marijuana has been associated with an increase in violent crime. It was just last year that U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions pointed the finger at legal pot sales in Colorado as the culprit behind an increase in violence in outlying areas.
“We’re seeing real violence around [legal marijuana],” Sessions told reporters during a 2017 press briefing. “Experts are telling me there’s more violence around marijuana than one would think and there’s big money involved.”
But is this claim real?
Interestingly, a study published earlier this year in the Economic Journal found that the legalization of marijuana is actually contributing to lower crime rates in the United States and Mexico. Crimes, including robberies, murders and aggravate assaults have all dropped by around 13 percent in areas close to medical marijuana states. The logic is that since people living in these legal jurisdictions are now allowed to cultivate and buy marijuana through legal channels, there is no need for them to engage in dangerous black market activity.
But it is not the people living in legal states that are causing the problems – it’s the thugs from areas of prohibition that are coming in to take advantage of the situation, says Sonoma County Agricultural Commissioner Tony Linegar. “Marijuana is so valuable men are willing to kill for it,” he said.
It is important to point out that Linegar does not appear to be anti-marijuana. He believes “‘marijuana ought to be treated as any other crop, provided that public safety is assured, banking issues are resolved and the smell of marijuana doesn’t adversely affect neighbors.’’It all comes down to the price of weed on the black market, Linegar added. As long as there is a demand for pot where prohibition remains the law of the land, there will be a vibrant black market.
The only way to bring this violent fiasco to a screeching halt is “ending the federal prohibition and resolving the banking issue,” he said.
While it is true that federal marijuana legalization would make most things easier with respect to marijuana – after all, no one is killing anyone these days over a bottle of beer –there is no evidence that statewide legalization is making life more threatening for anyone.
But it could be awhile before federal legalization comes to pass. As it stands, Congress has yet to embrace the issue. Despite a handful of lawmakers willing to support temporary protections, like the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment, neither chamber (or Party, for that matter) seems a bit too concerned with the legal status of marijuana. In fact, even those representatives from legal states have said that they are staying out of the federal marijuana discussion until Sessions threatens to discount states rights and enforce some kind of crackdown. It is this “as long as everything is peaceful in my backyard” attitude that is part of the problem.
It has been said that the cannabis industry needs to support advocacy. The truth is more cannabis advocates should start concerning themselves less with temporary protections and worthless memos and start pushing for more concrete reforms.