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Crime and the depenalization of cannabis possession: evidence

Author

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  • Adda, Jérôme
  • McConnell, Brendon
  • Rasul, Imran

Abstract

We evaluate the impact on crime of a localized policing experiment that depenalized the possession of small quantities of cannabis in the London borough of Lambeth. Such a policy can: (i) impact the demand for cannabis in Lambeth as users move there to purchase cannabis; (ii) enable the Lambeth police to reallocate effort towards other types of crime. We investigate whether the depenalization policy impacts the level and composition of crime, using administrative records on criminal offences by drug type, and for seven types of nondrug crime. We find that depenalization in Lambeth led to significant increases in cannabis possession offences that persisted well after the policy experiment ended. We find evidence that the policy caused the police to reallocate effort towards crimes related to the supply of Class-A drugs, as well as reallocating effort towards non-drug crime: there are significant reductions in five types of non-drug crime, and significant improvements in police effectiveness against such crimes as measured by arrest and clear-up rates. Despite the overall fall in crime attributable to the policy, we find the total welfare of local residents likely fell, as measured by house prices. These welfare losses are concentrated in Lambeth zip codes where the illicit drug market was most active. Finally, we shed light on what would be the impacts on crime of a citywide depenalization policy, by developing and calibrating a structural model of the market for cannabis and crime, accounting for the behavior of police and cannabis users. This highlights that many of the gains of the policy can be retained, and some of the deleterious consequences ameliorated, if all jurisdictions depenalized cannabis possession. These results provide new insights for the current policy debate on the regulation of illicit drug markets.

Suggested Citation

  • Adda, Jérôme & McConnell, Brendon & Rasul, Imran, 2014. "Crime and the depenalization of cannabis possession: evidence," Economics Working Papers ECO2014/05, European University Institute.
  • Handle: RePEc:eui:euiwps:eco2014/05
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. van Ours, Jan C., 2003. "Is cannabis a stepping-stone for cocaine?," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 22(4), pages 539-554, July.
    2. Conley, John P. & Wang, Ping, 2006. "Crime and ethics," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 60(1), pages 107-123, July.
    3. Thaler, Richard, 1978. "A note on the value of crime control: Evidence from the property market," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 5(1), pages 137-145, January.
    4. Rosalie Liccardo Pacula & Beau Kilmer, 2003. "Marijuana and Crime: Is there a Connection Beyond Prohibition?," NBER Working Papers 10046, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Kelly, Elaine & Rasul, Imran, 2014. "Policing cannabis and drug related hospital admissions: Evidence from administrative records," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 112(C), pages 89-114.
    6. Andrew Resignato, 2000. "Violent crime: a function of drug use or drug enforcement?," Applied Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 32(6), pages 681-688.
    7. Damrongplasit, Kannika & Hsiao, Cheng & Zhao, Xueyan, 2010. "Decriminalization and Marijuana Smoking Prevalence: Evidence From Australia," Journal of Business & Economic Statistics, American Statistical Association, vol. 28(3), pages 344-356.
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Olivier Marie & Ulf Zölitz, 2017. "“High” Achievers? Cannabis Access and Academic Performance," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 84(3), pages 1210-1237.
    2. Chu, Yu-Wei Luke & Townsend, Wilbur, 2017. "Joint culpability: The effects of medical marijuana laws on crime," Working Paper Series 6141, Victoria University of Wellington, School of Economics and Finance.
    3. Benjamin Hansen & Keaton Miller & Caroline Weber, 2017. "The Grass is Greener on the Other Side: How Extensive is the Interstate Trafficking of Recreational Marijuana?," NBER Working Papers 23762, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Vidal, Jordi Blanes I & Kirchmaier, Tom, 2015. "The effect of police response time on crime detection," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 64979, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    5. Brinkman, Jeffrey & Mok-Lamme, David, 2017. "Not in My Backyard? Not So Fast. The Effect of Marijuana Legalization on Neighborhood Crime," Working Papers 17-19, Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia.
    6. Jordi Blanes i Vidal & Tom Kirchmaier, 2015. "The Effect of Police Response Time on Crime Detection," CEP Discussion Papers dp1376, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
    7. repec:uab:wprdea:wpdea1409 is not listed on IDEAS
    8. repec:aea:aejpol:v:9:y:2017:i:4:p:28-63 is not listed on IDEAS
    9. Marie O. & Zölitz U.N., 2015. "‘High’ achievers? Cannabis access and academic performance," Research Memorandum 008, Maastricht University, Graduate School of Business and Economics (GSBE).
    10. DeAngelo, Gregory & Redford, Audrey, 2015. "Is Medical Marijuana a Gateway Drug?: The Effect of Medical Marijuana Legalization on Heroin Use Rates," 2016 Annual Meeting, February 6-9, 2016, San Antonio, Texas 229981, Southern Agricultural Economics Association.
    11. Paul Bisschop & Stephen Kastoryano & Bas van der Klaauw, 2017. "Street Prostitution Zones and Crime," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 9(4), pages 28-63, November.
    12. Manolis Galenianos & Alessandro Gavazza, 2017. "A Structural Model of the Retail Market for Illicit Drugs," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 107(3), pages 858-896, March.
    13. Roxana Gutierrez-Romero & Alessandra Conte, 2014. "Estimating the impact of Mexican drug cartels on crime," Working Papers wpdea1406, Department of Applied Economics at Universitat Autonoma of Barcelona.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Cannabis; crime; depenalization; police behavior.;

    JEL classification:

    • H75 - Public Economics - - State and Local Government; Intergovernmental Relations - - - State and Local Government: Health, Education, and Welfare
    • J18 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Public Policy
    • K42 - Law and Economics - - Legal Procedure, the Legal System, and Illegal Behavior - - - Illegal Behavior and the Enforcement of Law

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