Faculty of Economics and Business (room: E0.20). Title: Crime and the Depenalization of Cannabis Posession: Evidence from a Policing Experiment (with B. McConnell and I. Rasul). Doors open at 11.45, lunch will be served.
|Date||23 September 2013|
|Time||12:00 - 13:15|
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 e¤ort towards other types of crime. We investigate whether such changing crime patterns are observed after the depenalization policy is introduced, using administrative records on criminal o¤ences by drug type, and for seven types of non-drug crime. We find that depenalization in Lambeth led to significant increases in cannabis possession o¤ences that persisted well after the policy experiment ended. We find little evidence that the policy caused the police to reallocate e¤ort towards Class-A drug crime, rather the evidence suggests the Lambeth police reallocated e¤ort towards non- drug crime: there are significant reductions in four types of non-drug crime, and significant improvements in police e¤ectiveness against such crimes. 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 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.