Could legalizing recreational pot bring more crime to Florida?

One of the big questions voters might have is how legal adult-use marijuana impacts a community. 

Will it lead to significant health impacts? Will it make it easier for kids to get cannabis? Will it worsen crime?

Researchers with the CATO Institute looked into some of this. Jeffrey Miron, the CATO Institute’s Vice President of Research, says the data is fairly limited and inconclusive right now.

"We don't have strong indications of anything significantly bad or anything significantly good," Miron explained.

On this topic, people working in the marijuana industry will occasionally point fingers at other vices, like alcohol. Some studies show as many as a third of inmates saying they were drunk when they committed the crime that got them incarcerated.

Brandon Johnson, the CEO of TRP and Cookies Florida, argues that weed mellows you out rather than making you want to fight or commit a burglary.

"People might be staying home watching a movie instead of going to a bar and crashing their car," he told FOX 35.

There are studies out there showing property crime and violent crime worsening after legalization

However, there’s research showing the opposite, too.


"You can, of course, because of the noise in the data, end up finding some states that look as though legalization made things better and other states where it looks as though it made things worse," Miron said carefully. "So my summary is attempting to average across all of that and say, on average, did we see anything consistent? And the short version is no."

One of the conundrums here is that by legalizing adult-use marijuana, voters would be erasing what right now is a crime.

Florida has some of the strictest punishments in the nation for marijuana possession. Having less than an ounce on you can land you a felony on your record and five years in prison in Florida. 

Paul Armentano, the Deputy Director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), said his agency is against that.

"There is not a single other state in this country that imposes felony penalties for marijuana possession for such a low personal use amount."

Armentano said he isn’t convinced of research showing adverse outcomes following the legalization of recreational weed. 

"We have 24 states, or 53% of the country right now, live in a jurisdiction where the adult use of marijuana is legal and regulated. Not a single one of those states has ever repealed or rolled back their marijuana legalization laws," said Armentano. "That tells me that these policies are working primarily the way that voters and politicians envisioned that they would."

For now, even without federal legalization and even before Florida votes, adult-use cannabis… dispensaries are investing in the Sunshine State.  

Whether recreational passes in November or not, we will continue our rapid expansion," said Johnson.