While many Colorado officials have come forward over the past few months to declare that legal weed is working better than they ever imagined, some prosecutors across the state believe the legal cannabis industry is responsible for the majority of the state’s murders.
In a recent interview with Fox 31 Denver, Arapahoe County District Attorney George Brauchler said nearly two-thirds of the homicide cases he has overseen in recent years have had a blatant connection to marijuana. This uprising in murder, he said, could be traced back to a legion of small time dope dealers who are slinging the herb on the street with rabid enthusiasm because legal weed has made it easier for the black market to thrive.
“There is increased crime, sometimes violent crime, associated with legalization of marijuana,” Brauchler said. “It is easier for there to be black market in a legalized system than there was before.”
Interestingly, Brauchler’s statement regarding marijuana and murder goes against the grain of a scene that even Governor Hickenlooper’s administration believes has been a benefit to the state.
Although the governor was not excited about the concept of legalization when voters approved Amendment 64 back in 2012, Hickenlooper said last week before a crowd in Los Angeles that he wouldn’t change what has happened in Colorado because “legalization [is] beginning to look like it might work.”
To solidify the attitude of Colorado’s governing force with respect to legal weed, Andrew Freeman, the Director of Marijuana Coordination for the State of Colorado, otherwise known as the state’s pot czar, recently told the Los Angeles Times that it has been business as usual in Colorado, despite some initial concerns over legalization.
“There have been a lot fewer public safety and health issues than the governor feared in the beginning,” Freeman said. “For the most part, Colorado looks like it did before legalization.”
Although the Fox 31 Problem Solvers discovered that 10 out of the last 15 drug-related murders in Aurora were connected to black market marijuana deals, their report seems to suggest that the majority of these cases involved teenagers.
Colorado’s cannabis market is set up very similar to the alcohol industry—only adults 21 or older are permitted to walk into a retail outlet and purchase cannabis products—so it is not likely that the cannabis industry is contributing to the majority of Colorado’s murders because there is simply no reason to kill someone over a product that can be purchased legally from a store. After all, how many people have you heard of being killed in the streets trying to buy a case of beer ever since the downfall of alcohol prohibition?
What appears to be happening is not an increase in murder due to legal weed, but rather an insurgence of gangland violence, involving weed, brought about by inconsistencies in state and federal law that continue to perpetuate the existence of a black market.
The primary reason there is not much violence associated with black market booze is because alcohol is legal across the entire nation—minus a few dry communities along the way. As long as surrounding states and communities continue to uphold a ban on marijuana, there is going to exist an opportunity for gangs and other criminal organizations to capitalize inside the crevasses of the underground.
In short, the legalization of marijuana really only provides a solid solution to eliminating the problems associated with prohibition (violent crime) when the majority of states subscribe to a policy supporting a legal commerce for all.
Colorado marijuana advocates agree.
“Blaming Colorado’s regulated marijuana system for violence stemming from illegal sales is like blaming Colorado’s traffic laws for accidents caused by drivers who run red lights,” Mason Tvert, Director of Communications for the Marijuana Policy Project, told HIGH TIMES. “If Mr. Brauchler is truly concerned about the violence associated with illegal marijuana sales, he should be urging local governments to lift their bans on regulated marijuana businesses.”
(Photo Courtesy of Weedist)