Folks who are against the legalization of cannabis often cite violent crime as a reason prohibition should continue. Many say that medical marijuana dispensaries attract crime. But, as the Denver Police Department reports, that’s just not true. Officials studied crime statistics in a 1,000-foot area around the 258 dispensaries in Denver (as of March 2010) and found that, in almost all cases, crime remained the same in those areas between 2009 and 2010. In some cases, crime went down.

Which begs the question, where’s all this crime we hear so much about?

Maybe it’s in the streets of cities and suburbs in states where medical marijuana isn’t legal. Back in my hometown of Philadelphia–and in other major cities–there’s plenty of cannabis-related crime. Gangs have turf wars over where pot and other illegal drugs can be sold. Police and innocent bystanders get killed in shootouts and drive-bys. This is common knowledge and, sadly, has become something of a cliche.

Knowing that, it’s no wonder that many current and former law enforcement members speak out in favor of legalizing cannabis. LEAP–Law Enforcement Against Prohibition–is made up of thousands of legalization advocates who are now or were at one time law enforcement professionals. They work to educate the public about the federal drug policy’s failure and, ultimately, to end violent crimes related to prohibition.

Back here in Colorado, some dispensaries have become the targets of crime. In November, a Colorado Springs dispensary was broken into and the would-be thieves locked themselves inside until police arrived. Other dispensaries across the state have reported burglaries and attempted break-ins.

But can these truly be considered “drug-related”? These instances could just as well have occurred at other establishments. They just happened to involve dispensaries. Citing incidents like this as evidence that dispensaries cause crime is like saying that convenience stores cause crime whenever one is robbed.

As more cities come out with similar findings to the Denver PD’s, how long will it be before federal lawmakers and anti-cannabis activists realize that it’s prohibition that causes the most crime, not legalization or decriminalization? This is why we need groups like LEAP. For the people who won’t listen to us crazy potheads, maybe the good words of a few police officers will help.

If the trend in Denver extends to other cities with legal medical marijuana–and undoubtedly it will–will we see this myth die? And, more importantly, will we see a greater drop in cannabis-related crimes? One can only hope.