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Shortly after an 18-year-old opened fire on children at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, last year, killing 19 students and two teachers, the New York Times published a lengthy front-page article on the killer’s background. One line in the Times’ report didn’t last long, before an editor deleted it from the article, without explanation. The sentence in question quoted one of the gunman’s co-workers at Wendy’s as saying:
“He would often talk about how much he despised his mother and grandmother, whom he told her did not let him smoke weed or do what he wanted.”
It was never clear why that particular line was deleted. Most likely they wanted to push gun confiscation instead, and it confused the narrative. In any event, the New York Times didn’t want to talk about the shooter’s marijuana use. If the blogger Alex Berenson hadn’t spotted the change, it’s likely no one would have ever noticed it. What we do know is that, if the shooter in Uvalde was indeed a pothead, then there are a lot of other examples just like him. Many other mass shooters — from Parkland to Aurora to Tucson to Sutherland Springs — were reported marijuana users.
That dovetails with research showing that young people who used marijuana were more than twice as likely to commit acts of violence. To give just one example, the American Journal of Psychiatry published a meta-analysis of several large-scale studies three years ago. The conclusion:
“These results demonstrate a moderate association between cannabis use and physical violence. … Cannabis use in this population is a risk factor for violence.”
You never hear about these studies, probably for the same reason that the New York Times censored itself for mentioning marijuana in the context of the Uvalde shooting. In elite circles, talking about the consequences of marijuana use is unpopular. Anything that discourages people from smoking more weed is also disfavored. It’s almost like they want the masses to be drugged and passive, which might explain why the cigar tax in New York is 75%, while the marijuana tax is less than 15%.
Regardless of what exactly explains that discrepancy, the PR effort to push marijuana has obviously been successful over the past decade. Two dozen states have passed some form of legalization or decriminalization of weed. And because slippery slopes are real — and anyone who uses the term “slippery slope fallacy” is lying to you — the decriminalization movement did not end there. Instead, it’s progressed far beyond marijuana.
Three years ago, on the heels of the race riots following the overdose of George Floyd, Oregon became the first state in the country to decriminalize the possession of all illegal drugs —not just marijuana, but every illegal drug. Nearly 60% of voters in the state approved Measure 110, along with a separate measure that legalized the use of hallucinogenic mushrooms for therapy. The idea was that laws against heroin and meth and other drugs were counterproductive and oppressive and of course racist, so they had to go.
Hopes were high. As Vox reported at the time:
“Given that decriminalization is so far untried in the US, it’s difficult to say how it would play out. In that sense, Measure 110 would create a real-time experiment for Oregon and the rest of the country.”
Not long afterwards, though, problems began to emerge. In 2022, a local news station embedded with the head of a Portland drug interdiction task force. Here’s what they learned:
Measure 110, the officer says, is the reason that fentanyl and stolen handguns and machine guns are flooding Oregon. “Measure 110 has everything to do with it,” he tells the reporter.
Now, three years after Measure 110 was passed, voters are tired of it. Polls now show that a majority of residents in Oregon now want to re-criminalize hard drugs, and a ballot measure doing so is expected next year. That’s because, predictably, decriminalizing cocaine and heroin, and everything else, has led to nothing less than the breakdown of society in Oregon. To the extent that there was a society there before this.
This week, the Wall Street Journal published an extensive analysis into the effect of Measure 110 on the state. It’s a report that everyone should read as it just entirely annihilates the case for drug legalization. And yet almost all of the pro-drug legalizers are simply ignoring it. They have gotten what they wanted — in Oregon, and to a lesser extent across the country — but you notice that they are not out touting the success of the policy they advocated for. That’s because there is no success. It has been a disaster.
The paper reports that, as a result of the law, “People sprawled on sidewalks and using fentanyl with no fear of consequence have become a common sight in cities such as Eugene and Portland.” From May of 2022 to May of this year, the number of fatal overdoses in the state increased by more than 20%, to 1,500 overdoses. That’s the third-highest jump in the entire country. Police in Eugene Oregon report that this year, there have been 858 calls for overdoses. In 2020, the number was 438.
The whole point of Measure 110 was to force these people to go to rehabilitation services, instead of jail, but of course that hasn’t worked either:
“Some 6,000 tickets have been issued for drug possession since decriminalization went into effect in 2021, but just 92 people have called and completed assessments needed to connect them to services,” the Journal reports. “The only penalty for those who don’t call is a $100 fine, which is rarely enforced.”
So in sum, Oregon’s decision to decriminalize all drugs has been an abject and totally predictable disaster. It turns out that when you invite people to do drugs whenever and wherever they want, you end up with a lot more people doing drugs whenever and wherever they want. Advocates for decriminalization have always claimed that decriminalizing drug use will not lead to more drug use, as though the law has absolutely no effect on people’s behavior. But that flies in the face of everything we’ve observed about human behavior since the dawn of civilized society.
To put it simply: Laws matter. When the law allows a certain behavior, you get more of that behavior. It’s not hard to figure out this equation.
That’s why — unless we want a lot more overdose deaths and illegal guns in major cities — we need to take a very close look at all forms of drug decriminalization, including the more limited decriminalization and legalization efforts we’ve seen across the country. As I mentioned earlier, weed is legal in most places now. How is that working out? Is there any evidence it’s making anything better? By the naked eye, it certainly seems to be contributing to our social decay. It has a demoralizing effect, at the very least, to walk through any city in America and smell the stench of weed everywhere, with people walking around stoned anywhere you go.
I say this as someone who, for a time, believed that weed — not any other drug — should probably just be legalized or at least decriminalized, as much as I personally don’t like the drug. But I can look around at our cities, smell the stench everywhere, see people high on drugs everywhere, and ask myself: has this made society better or worse? That’s the question everyone should be asking themselves.
Aside from the naked eye test, what does the data say? For a lot of reasons, it’s hard to measure the precise impact of marijuana decriminalization on people’s quality of life. There are so many variables — including the decision by leftist D.A.’s to stop enforcing a bunch of other laws — that it’s difficult to ascribe any particular blame to one specific policy or another. It’s all kind of a jumbled mess. To be sure, a lot of jurisdictions that have legalized or decriminalized marijuana have seen significant increases in crime. New York legalized cannabis in 2021, for example, and then immediately saw its overall crime index jump by more than 22%. Along the same lines, after Washington’s Supreme Court struck down the state’s drug laws — effectively legalizing all drugs until legislators could fix the problem — crime spiked. Washington’s rate of violent crimes jumped from 337 per 100,000 people in 2021, to more than 375 per 100,000 people in 2022.
There’s no easy way to determine with absolute certainty at this stage what role, if any, drug legalization is playing in these numbers. But there have been some attempts at drilling this down. A couple of years ago, analysts at the Justice Research and Statistics Association looked at the impact of marijuana decriminalization in 11 states — including Washington, Arizona, California, Colorado, Nebraska, and others — by speaking to local officials and law enforcement personnel.
The researchers found that, after Washington state legalized recreational marijuana use in 2020, arrests for both the possession and distribution of heroin and methamphetamine increased significantly. Meanwhile in Colorado, which also decriminalized pot a decade ago, the researchers found that:
“Respondents in particular reported an increase in the homeless population from individuals moving to the state for jobs in the marijuana industry that failed to materialize. Other concerns expressed by interviewees related to criminal behavior associated with the marijuana business, such as attempts to steal marijuana and take over selling from locals.”
In Oregon, there were similar concerns: “An Oregon respondent reported a 55-60% increase in marijuana-related DUIs” following marijuana decriminalization. Along the same lines, a separate research team from the University of Utah scrutinized crime data from Oregon. They found that:
“Results provide some evidence demonstrating a crime-exacerbating effect of recreational marijuana legalization, as reflected by substantial increases in the rates of multiple types of serious crimes … in Oregon relative to non-legalized states following legalization, including property and violent crime overall, as well as other crimes such as burglary, motor vehicle theft, larceny, and aggravated assault.”
None of this is particularly surprising, given that marijuana is a psychoactive drug that’s been linked to violent behavior. What is perhaps surprising is that, given what we know (and don’t know), several states are still pushing the decriminalization agenda.
Ohio, for example, is set to decriminalize the drug in just a few weeks. Watch how local news is covering this:
Notice that they’re not talking about how decriminalizing marijuana is going to make everyone more productive and happier members of society. They’re not claiming that it’s going to make the state a better place to live, which is really what every law ultimately should be designed to do. They’re not talking about how safe the schools in Ohio will be, after young children with mental disorders are granted even easier access to psychoactive drugs. Instead, they’re talking about tax revenue. They’re telling you the state will make more money. That’s the whole pitch. They’re not even pretending otherwise.
And that tells you something that even Left-wing voters in Oregon are now realizing: the more recreational drugs you legalize, the more crime and urban decay you have to deal with. This really should not be a surprise. People are more likely to do something when there is no legal ramification for doing it. That doesn’t mean everyone stops doing drugs when you make it illegal. It just means that the fewer obstacles in the way, the fewer consequences, the more of that behavior you get.
This isn’t just because of the practical obstacles put in place when something is illegal. It’s also because the law is a teacher. A thing begins to seem less objectionable to people when the law endorses it. Ultimately, there’s no upside for anyone but the state Treasury, and the politicians who desperately need voters to be as stoned and submissive as possible. Otherwise, if voters aren’t high out of their minds, they might realize what these politicians are doing to their communities. They might realize that destruction and decay are a choice.
And then, like the voters in Oregon, they might decide they’ve finally had enough of it.