Seattle is a vibrant, food-and-drink-centric city in the Pacific Northwest that boasts a stunning waterfront setting. It’s also home to a large tech industry.
A recent study by Washington State University researchers found that crime rates in Seattle stayed about the same after legalization, which matched trends in states with more strict pot laws.
1. Property Crimes
Seattle’s legal marijuana market is bringing a new level of social equity to the city. Seattle law enforcement has taken steps to support cannabis workers and neighborhoods disproportionately impacted by the federal drug war. A new city ordinance could introduce new “social equity” criteria for marijuana businesses to qualify for licenses.
Overall, crime rates in Seattle have declined since the state legalized pot in 2014. However, not all Seattle neighborhoods saw the same decline.
This could be attributed to a variety of factors, including the fact that police agencies are often very diverse in their resource allocations and expertise. In addition, the study analyzed only significant crimes, so it does not account for other types of offenses also legal in Washington, such as DUI.
Property crimes, such as robbery and burglary, comprise most of the city’s reported crimes. These crimes were committed at 4,496 per 100,000 people in 2019.
2. Drug-Related Crimes
We examined changes in adult marijuana arrest rates and disparities in rates for African Americans in Washington State (WA) after the legalization of possession of small amounts of marijuana for 21+ year-olds in December 2012 and after the marijuana retail market opened in July 2014. This analysis uses data from 2012-2015 National Incident-Based Reporting System arrests.
Using negative binomial regression models, we examined monthly marijuana arrest rates over time and tested for differences between African Americans and Whites, adjusting for age and sex. Our results show that the 2012-2015 declines in adult marijuana arrests and the reductions in arrest disparities between African Americans and Whites were significant. Additionally, the city has seen a considerable decrease in the number of low-level drug offenders booked into jail, reflected in the decreasing number of Seattle prisoner mugshots.
We also found that crime rates decreased significantly in neighborhoods near dispensaries but did not increase in adjacent communities. This is consistent with the theory that legalization causes an overall decrease in local crime. However, we cannot rule out that these decreases may simply be displaced by increased policing or private security in neighborhoods near dispensaries.
3. Drug-Related Violent Crimes
The Impact of Seattle’s Legal Marijuana Market on Crime Rates
As marijuana legalization spreads nationwide, many states consider how their new laws might affect violent crime. Washington is no exception.
When the state’s felony drug law was abolished last year, many local law enforcement agencies were forced to scale back operations and cut staff. This has led to an increase in violent crimes.
In Seattle, there has been a significant rise in homicides. These crimes are often committed in areas where people struggle to find work.
While some people have cited the legalization of marijuana as a reason for the increased violence, it’s important to note that alcohol and drugs do not only affect the behavior of those who use them but also those who are around them.
For this reason, cities and states must try to reduce the impact of marijuana-related violent crimes on communities of color. One way to do this is to support programs that provide alternatives to incarceration for non-violent drug offenders.
4. Drug-Related Property Crimes
The impact of Seattle’s legal marijuana market on crime rates is a topic of interest to local governments, law enforcement agencies, and public safety advocates. It is essential to understand that the legal cannabis market does not eliminate drug-related violent crimes, and the legal pot market may encourage criminal activity among rival factions of the black market.
A new study found no statistically significant long-term effects of recreational cannabis laws or the initiation of retail sales on violent or property crime rates in Washington and Colorado. However, the study did find that arrests for possession of marijuana decreased significantly after its legalization in both states.
Police officials are targeting people selling weed, committing violent crimes, and engaging in predatory behavior as part of a series of emphasis patrols called “Operation New Day.” Officers have arrested 33 defendants in felony drug dealing cases at Third and Pike and 12th and Jackson downtown since January. Those detained include those selling heroin, meth, crack cocaine, and fentanyl.