Newly compiled data from the federal government shows that in the years since states started legalizing marijuana, illegal trafficking in the drug has dropped sharply.
“The number of marijuana traffickers rose slightly over time until a sharp decline in fiscal year 2013 and the number continues to decrease,” reads a new document released on Friday by the U.S. Sentencing Commission.
Colorado and Washington State voted to legalize marijuana in 2012. Two years later, Alaska and Oregon followed suit, along with Washington, D.C.
Marijuana policy reform advocates said the new data does not come as a surprise.
“Like adults who consume alcohol, adults who consume marijuana would prefer to purchase it legally in a regulated market instead of in the underground market,” Mason Tvert, communications director for the Marijuana Policy Project, told Marijuana.com in an email. “Consumers are driven by convenience, variety, quality, and safety. They want to stop in a store, choose from a wide selection of tested, packaged and labeled products, and they want to do it without fear of being robbed or arrested.”
In addition to choice and convenience considerations, many people who use marijuana would rather put their dollars into a legal and regulated industry made up of responsible businesses instead of supporting organized crime networks that often settle disputes with violence.
“Purchasing cannabis in the illicit market is not something that the millions of cannabis consumers in the United States relish doing,” said Amanda Reiman, marijuana law and policy manager for the Drug Policy Alliance. “Besides the risks associated with the illicit market (arrest, violence), most cannabis consumers do not want to support cartels with their dollars any more than they want to support mass-produced, slave labor created clothing. For many consumers, supporting legal cannabis means supporting the local economy.”
In a Twitter post, the Sentencing Commission characterized the data as showing a “continued decline in marijuana trafficking.”
NEW FY15 Drug Quick Facts show continued decline in marijuana trafficking, increases in meth & heroin trafficking. https://t.co/7qcx5tW36V
— SentencingCommission (@TheUSSCgov) May 20, 2016
It is likely that at least five additional states will have measures to legalize marijuana on their November ballots this year.
“As more and more states adopt laws that regulate marijuana for adult use, we can expect to continue seeing a decline in illegal cultivation and trafficking,” said MPP’s Tvert. “The only thing that will delay its elimination is some states taking longer than others to adopt sensible marijuana policies.”
Photo Courtesy of Jan Faukner.