• Researchers in the US have found evidence decriminalising cannabis reduces severity of domestic abuse attacks
  • Decriminalisation reduced domestic assaults involving serious injuries by 22.5%
  • Serious domestic assaults involving offender alcohol intoxication were reduced by 40.7%
  • The number of serious domestic assaults involving weapons also went down by 23.1%.

A new study from the US has found evidence that decriminalising cannabis leads to a reduction in the severity of domestic abuse.

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania investigating the impact of relaxing laws on cannabis found that domestic assaults resulting in severe physical trauma, such as broken bones, significantly drops after decriminalisation.

While the study found that there was a reduction in the severity of domestic abuses, decriminalising cannabis did not also lead to a decline in the number of abuses reported.

The results of the study challenge “Reefer Madness”-era propaganda which claims that cannabis induces violent impulses.

Researchers analysed NIBRS data on assaults in 25 US States from 2005-2016, categorising assaults based on the extent of injury:  total assaults, domestic assaults, non-domestic assaults at all levels of seriousness, as well as serious assaults, serious domestic assaults, and serious non-domestic assaults, were employed as dependent variables.

The analysis showed that decriminalisation reduced domestic assaults involving serious injuries by 22.5%. This was the only result robust to all subsequent checks.

The researchers found that decriminalising cannabis also reduced the number of domestic abuse cases involving alcohol, which has long been associated with domestic abuse, as alcohol truly is a violence-inducing narcotic.

Serious domestic assaults involving offender alcohol intoxication were reduced by 40.7% and the number of serious domestic assaults involving weapons also went down by 23.1%.

The researchers suggest that offering people the choice between cannabis and alcohol seems to be the best way to help reduce the severity of domestic abuse, as given that choice, evidently some people would ditch the booze in favour of cannabis:

“Given the evidence that alcohol is a substance which aggravates violence, the alcohol finding suggests both that (a) marijuana and alcohol are substitutes rather than complements, and (b) the substitutionary use of marijuana likely mitigates the severity of assaults.”

The calming effect that cannabis has was also noted by the researchers as a proposed reason for the reduction in domestic violence injuries:

“Despite the longstanding debate over whether marijuana contributes to violence, the medical literature suggests that marijuana is effective as a short-term sleep aid and may contribute to excessive daytime sleepiness.

“By making would-be assailants sleepier, marijuana consumption may make the nature of assaults less serious and injuries less severe. This is likely the simplest explanation and is certainly incomplete.”

“This study provides evidence that decriminalization of marijuana leads to substantial declines in victim injury.”

 

The authors of the study concluded that:

“While all forms of domestic violence can be uniquely traumatizing, incidents resulting in serious injury can lead to lasting physical, mental, and financial consequences for the victim.

“Hence, it is surprising that most literature on the effects of policy intervention on domestic violence treats such incidents as homogeneous rather than considering differing levels of victim injury.

“This study provides evidence that decriminalization of marijuana leads to substantial declines in victim injury.

“Among domestic violence assaults where the victim suffered a serious injury, there was a significant decline in incidents where the offender was under the influence of alcohol or used a weapon.”

While decriminalising cannabis leads to a decrease in the severity of domestic abuse, the trend does not follow with legalising medical cannabis.

The researchers believe that one possible answer is:

“States which have legalised medical marijuana are much involved in regulating the substance —and restricting access to it.

“Doubtless, the legalisation of medical marijuana may increase rates of consumption for recreational purposes, as some amount of medical marijuana makes it way to the general public.

“Nevertheless, medical legalisation may still not increase consumption to the extent that it affects rates of serious domestic assault.”

Putting too many restrictions on cannabis via over-regulation obviously restricts access. The evidence is clear that to help reduce the severity of domestic abuse, thus protecting some of the most vulnerable members of society, Governments must maximise access to cannabis for its population.

By offering citizens the choice between cannabis and alcohol, Governments can reduce the worst effects that alcohol has on society. Piecemeal legalisation of medical cannabis benefits only the wealthy few who are fortunate enough to be involved in the exclusive legal medical cannabis industry, especially in the UK, where only a few companies are legally allowed to grow and manufacture cannabis for medicinal purposes.

However, the researchers conceded that is is currently impossible to test their theory with the crime data set they used, as it does not differentiate the use of cannabis from other drugs. Further research will be needed before definitive conclusions can be made.

Domestic abuse in the UK has been rising over the years. According to the Office for National Statistics:

“In the year ending March 2018, an estimated 2.0 million adults aged 16 to 59 years experienced domestic abuse in the last year (1.3 million women, 695,000 men).

“The police recorded 599,549 domestic abuse-related crimes in the year ending March 2018. This was an increase of 23% from the previous year.”

According to Refuge, a domestic violence charity, “two women are killed each week by a current or former partner in England and Wales.”

Decriminalising cannabis has the potential to save these women. It is now up to British Government to decide if they are willing to adopt policy which could save women and men from serious domestic abuse.

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