America’s cops overwhelmingly do not see marijuana as a major threat to their communities, according to results of a survey released this week as part of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s “2015 National Drug Threat Assessment Summary.”
The DEA asked a nationally representative sample of over 1,000 law enforcement agencies what they saw as their biggest drug threats. Marijuana came in at the bottom of the list, named by only 6 percent of survey respondents. The share of law enforcement agencies naming pot has been declining steadily since the mid-2000s, even as states have moved to legalize medical and recreational marijuana during that time period.
By contrast, nearly three quarters of police departments named heroin and meth as their top drug threats this year. The perceived threat of heroin has more than quadrupled since 2007, according to the survey. And after rising sharply from 2007 to 2013, the threat posed by prescription painkillers has subsided considerably in the past two years.
The findings indicate a statement by law enforcement of a fact that drug policy experts and researchers have known for a long time: compared to other recreational substances, including alcohol, marijuana doesn’t cause that much harm. It’s probably even safer than many people think. And whether you’re worried about potential harms to individuals or to communities, marijuana isvery low on the list of recreational substances.
The state and local police also say that marijuana is not a big driver of crime. Only 6 percent said that marijuana was the most serious driver of violent crime in their communities in 2015, and 5 percent said it was the biggest contributor to property crime. This contradicts arguments made by some high-ranking law enforcement officers recently that marijuana is somehow driving an increase in murders this year.
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