Washington DC is suffering through a serious wave of gun violence, and Fox News wants you to think that weed is to blame.
Last Friday, DC Police Chief Robert Contee held a press conference to address the recent increase in violent crime. The chief elucidated a number of issues that were contributing to this crime wave, including the post-pandemic economic recession, insufficient resources for police, and a proliferation of easily-available firearms. Contee also cited the city's cannabis black market as another factor driving this new spate of gun violence.
“We have taken on a mindset that marijuana is not really a big issue in our city,” he said, according to Rolling Stone. “I can tell you that marijuana undoubtedly is connected to violent crime in our city.”
This Monday, the hosts of the Fox & Friends morning show seized on the last of these comments in a news segment about DC's crime wave. The hosts cherry-picked Contee's statement linking marijuana to gun violence, while conveniently ignoring the other serious issues he brought up. The chief’s comment was distorted to suggest that weed was the sole factor leading to this wave of violence, and the hosts even went so far as to claim that cannabis use causes “psychosis.”
But in the actual press conference, Contee made it perfectly clear that he was specifically blaming the increased violence on black market cannabis dealers, not users. “When you have something where people get high reward and can make a lot of money by selling illegal marijuana, and the risk for accountability is very low, that creates a very, very, very, very, very bad situation,” said the chief, Rolling Stone reports. “Those individuals get robbed, those individuals get shot at, those individuals get involved in disputes all across our city. I’m seeing it happen more and more.”
The disconnect between federal and district cannabis laws is largely responsible for helping the city’s black market weed dealers stay in business. DC voters passed a law to legalize personal cannabis possession and use for adults in 2014, but this law continues to prohibit all adult-use weed sales. With no source of legal weed available for sale, grey-market and black-market dealers sprung up to fill the void.
DC officials quickly realized their mistake and moved to legalize adult-use sales, but GOP lawmakers crushed their plans. Every year since the District passed its weed law, Congress has added a rider to the federal annual budget bill that prevents the city from using its own funding to regulate legal weed sales. President Biden continues to champion this ban today, but there is still a chance that the Democrat-controlled Congress will finally remove this rider.
The Fox hosts' claims that weed is responsible for psychosis and violent crime have also been thoroughly debunked by science. Researchers have found no causal link between cannabis use and psychosis, and recent studies have demonstrated that correlations between weed and mental illness are explained by the fact that people suffering from schizophrenia or depression are more likely to use cannabis.
Contrary to prohibitionists' claims, several research studies have also found that violent crime has been decreasing in states that legalized medical or adult-use cannabis. Studies have reported that crime rates decreased in Colorado, Washington, and other states shortly after adult-use laws came into effect. And just this month, a comprehensive analysis published by the National Bureau of Economic Research confirmed that there is no link between legal weed and violent crime or problematic substance abuse.