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The Grady effect: why do "red states" murder more? Why does legal weed correlate to less murder?
Political party Murderball is a stupid, hideous culture war game. But if we're going to obsess about the scoreboard, we should make "Sheriff 70 Percent" acknowledge what it says.
Take a good look at this chart I prepared using statewide murder rates in 2019 and 2020, the last year for which we have essentially complete statewide data. The scale on the left is per capita murder rate; the number scale on the right, tracked by the gray line, is percentage growth in murder rate in 2020, which was also the year of the George Floyd unrest.
The data I used comes from a quite “anti-woke centrist” group called “Third Way,” which just published a fascinating report called “The Red State Murder Problem.”
I’ve done some tailored analysis in the little chart above — and the larger spreadsheets below. I’ve included and circled the performance of my famous Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd, for the benefit of state and local readers familiar with him.
Just after presiding over a 70 percent countywide murder spike in 2020, the largest murder rate spike of any large county in Florida, Grady Judd said this while campaigning in uniform for Ron DeSantis.
2021 Grady: Take your kids to the Disney “groomers”; but don’t bring your low murder northern policies to Florida
Judd, who received a presidential appointment from the Trump Administration, warned new Florida residents not to "vote the stupid way you did up north," while holding up pictures of the beach and Walt Disney World.
"We're a special place, and there are millions and millions of people who like to come here. And quite frankly, we like to have them here. So we only want to share one thing as you move in hundreds a day: Welcome to Florida. But don't register to vote and vote the stupid way you did up north, you'll get what they got," said Judd.
This is a darkly hilarious passage/quote in many ways — considering that Disney World is now “groomer” central for the abusive governor and delusionally dangerous party Grady Judd campaigns for in uniform.
I’ll give the sheriff the benefit of the doubt: I’m sure he didn’t realize he was marketing children to the GOP’s willfully organized delusion of Walt Grooomer World in April 2021.
But life comes at you fast, Grady.
And your party, your governor, and your social and cultural base is now clearly working to gin up “groomer”-delusion mass violence at a Disney park or a school. Mass murder of children and families is probably more effective than boycotts in undermining attendance at an institution or commercial site you find useful to label a public enemy.
This isn’t abstract or speculative. Something very much like this already happened six months ago here in Polk County, in Grady Judd’s jurisdiction, when a roided-up “good guy with a gun” erased a completely innocent family over his Q-Anon-style delusions of “sex trafficking.” That’s very “groomer” adjacent.
Florida’s worst sheriff in 2020, according to the data
As my little chart shows, I wish Florida and Polk County did it “the stupid way” they “do it up north.”
The free states of Massachusetts and Vermont, for instance, are much freer from murder than the free state of Florida. So are New Hampshire, Maine, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, and New Jersey. If Grady Judd did it the way they “do it up north,” a lot more of my fellow Polk County citizens would be alive.
The way he did it in 2020 particularly sucked, according to the death data.
Indeed, according to the murder data, Sheriff Grady Judd of Polk County was almost certainly the worst performing sheriff in Florida — if not the entire country — in the same exact year he was the most openly political and trash-talking-est. He invented a “riot” in Lakeland that didn’t happen and publicly ignored a murder spree in Polk that did.
The sheriff’s only answer to Polk’s unique murder growth problem, thus far, has been to suggest that people “chill out” and “eat a moon pie.” I am not kidding.
The way we do it down south
Let’s interrogate that “way they do it up north” thing a bit more, with a wider lens.
Of the top 10 most murderous states in America, eight voted “red” in the 2020 presidential election. Of the top 10 least murderous states, eight voted “blue” in the 2020 presidential election.
You’ll see this in the color-coded spreadsheets I’ve provided below.
One of the two top 10 murderous “blue” states is Georgia. Culturally — and at the state government level — Georgia has long been a “red” state, perhaps emerging into purple now. So that’s really nine “red” states out of the most murderous 10.
Each of those nine most murderous states is a southern state. Yes, Kentucky, Missouri, and Tennessee all play in the SEC. They’re southern.
Of the 10 least murderous states, five are in New England
Moreover, at least six out of the 10 — and 13 of 20 — fastest growing state murder rates are in “red” states. Some of these growth states are very different states — red and blue — than the overall murderous states.
If you care, I’m a no party affiliate. I try to define myself by what I do, not who I am. If pushed, I might call myself a pro-14th-amendment, anti-prohibition, moral conservative — with my conception of morality based on honest observation of human behavior, not religion.
I do not care what political name you want to call me. Call me whatever the hell you want.
Legal cannabis correlates to less murder
I added a third wrinkle to the charts that follow — states that treat cannabis like alcohol, with a full, legal, regulated market.
None of the top 10 most murderous states, red or blue, have created an alcohol-style legal cannabis market. Not one. Of the 25 most murderous, only four states have fully legalized cannabis.
Of the 25 least murderous states, 11 have legal cannabis markets. Of the 10 least murderous states, four have fully legal cannabis markets.
On the growth side, the correlation is more pronounced. Just three of the 24 highest- growth murder states have legal cannabis. Twelve of the 23 lowest murder growth states have legal cannabis. And the only state that saw a major murder rate decrease in 2020 — Alaska — is a “red” state with a fully legal, alcohol-style, cannabis market.
More, briefly, on the cannabis angle in a moment. But first, take a look at the state-by-state murder rate and murder rate growth charts below. Based on the available data, Kentucky seems to have to most unfortunate combination of high overall rate + growth.
[There’s an incomplete data oddity with high murder rate Mississippi, Missouri, and Alabama, which led Third Way to do estimates for them. So the possible growth number for red states ranges from 32pct to 45pct. I used the higher number. Feel free to use the lower number if you want. I have removed those three states from the second sheet because the absence of 2019 data causes them to sort to the bottom in a way that is misleading on the color scale.]
Overall murder rate
2020 growth rate
Weed correlation is not causation, but …
I made the cannabis question a binary yes-or-no on the existence of alcohol-style legalization. My study of prohibition history tells me that regulated legalization is what creates legal market conditions that reduce illegal cannabis business-related violence and death.
Ending national alcohol prohibition in 1933 correlates precisely with the longest, steepest, most sustained murder rate drop in American history. It lasted until the late 1950s for white Americans. For black Americans, it lasted until 1962 — the early dawn of the failed Drug War and Civil Rights era. It vastly reduced killing of police. And America did not expand the prison population chasing it.
You can see it on this chart. The first blue peak is 1932.
Indeed, the alcohol prohibition correlation with murder is so precise and stark that I’m willing to call it causation. But I’ll settle for somebody, anybody in power studying it. This is a good place to start. As someone once wrote, drug cartels don’t grow wine grapes.
By contrast, there is zero historical correlation between modern mass incarceration and the 25-year-ish national murder rate drop that ended recently. They happened in parallel, with mass incarceration over a much longer period. Mass incarceration still fully exists as murder rates are rising again. You can see this lack of correlation viscerally and clearly on this chart, when murder rate and homicide rate are charted on the same numerical scale.
Most of my spreadsheets’ yellow “illegal” cannabis states — including Florida — do have some form of de-criminalization or legal medical marijuana. But the American weed policy patchwork still leaves lots of room for illegal cannabis money that people will kill each other to control and/or steal. There’s money to be made from selling legal weed illegally to illegal states, for instance. We’re a long way from the single standard market that drains the business of illegal money.
The unstandardized complexity of the American cannabis trade makes any correlation extremely difficult to attribute to causation. But the correlation itself is quite clear. Illegal weed correlates to more murder; legal weed to less. There is nothing in that data suggesting that legalizing cannabis like alcohol will make your state more violent. Quite a bit suggests you could improve things.
The Grady effect: Sheriff “70 percent’s” worst performance year correlates neatly with his most violent and tribal trash talk year
You may have heard about something called “the Ferguson effect” — named for the unrest around a few blocks of Ferguson, Missouri following the police killing of Michael Brown. It’s the idea — mostly put forward by police — that violent crime increases in a community after a Ferguson-style clash between communities and their police because of that clash. It’s a causation/correlation theory.
If the Ferguson effect is real, Polk County’s 2020 murder rate experience, relative to Florida and other big counties, should have been the opposite of its actual experience.
Yet Grady Judd’s murder rate spike far exceeded Florida’s — despite Polk having almost zero George Floyd unrest (just one quickly-cleared interaction between some protesters and a car at one Lakeland intersection with no injuries). Hillsborough and Miami-Dade counties, for instance, both had reasonably significant violence and property destruction. Yet, Miami-Dade’s 2020 murder rate went up 10 percent and Hillsborough 20 percent, compared to Polk’s 70 percent. According to “the Ferguson effect,” that dynamic should have been reversed.
Could a different effect explain Polk’s murder spike? The Grady Judd effect?
Perhaps that’s what happens when political law enforcement leaders use their powerful public and media platforms to inject violent, scapegoating, incitement-drenched language into their communities to create tension and divide their constituents.
And perhaps “the Grady effect” helps explain higher levels of red state murder and murder rate growth.
The language of death and failure and irresponsible leadership
Grady Judd’s public behavior in 2020 and 2021 is characterized by viscerally violent language — delivered in most reckless, public, politically and culturally-divisive ways possible. Here are just a couple of samples; add them to: don’t bring your low murder northern policies to Florida.
The people of Polk County like guns. They have guns. I encourage them to own guns. And they’re going to be in their homes tonight with their guns loaded. And if you try to break into their homes to steal, to set fires, I’m highly recommending they blow you back out of the house with their guns.
This quote hyped a white supremacist hoax that “Antifa” would be attacking white people in their neighborhoods.
It would have been nice if he would have come out with a gun and then we’d have been able to read a newspaper through him. But when someone chooses to give up, we take them into custody peacefully. If he’d have given us the opportunity, we’d have shot him up alive. But he didn’t because he’s a coward.
This was in response to the “sex trafficking”-delusioned good guy with a gun who erased the completely innocent family I mentioned above. Full background on all of Grady’s 2020 and 2021 public leadership failures can be found here. They go on and on.
People forget this — Grady included — but I pay his salary and that of his deputies. So do all the “libs” he despises and agitates against in uniform. He stands by idly while his biggest fans protect fugitives from the Capitol Lynch Mob and Matt Gaetz-enablers slander and incite violence against their fellow citizens by calling them “groomers.” That’s how much respect he has for his law-abiding “lib” constituents.
We, his constituents, are fully entitled to evaluate his performance as a law enforcement officer separately from his role as clownish right wing entertainer. We are entitled to expect from him the behavior of a real sheriff who protects every lawful citizen he serves, physically and morally.
If the Grady Effect has indeed ginned up the outsized Polk County murder spike, the sheriff has a moral and professional obligation to diminish it with serious words and changes to his behavior.
He could start by publicly acknowledging the correlation between his behavior and his murder data I’ve documented. He could respond to this article right here on Public Enemy Number 1. I’ll publish — and respond to — anything he wants to write.
I do not think Grady Judd is strong enough or moral enough or honest enough as a man to do any of that. Too much of his personal and political identity is built into moral lies about his constituents. I’ve watched him and engaged him and tried to appeal to his better angels for a long time. To only sporadic avail.
2020 and 2021 seem to have marked a unique turning point in his relationship with his community.
I hope I’m wrong; but I suspect we’ll keep getting pathetic stuff like this real Grady quote: “So just chill out, drink a 7-Up, eat a moon pie. Quit murdering people.”
Sorry Sheriff 70 percent, that’s no match for the Grady Effect.
Murder is personal, not political
Everyone should ask themselves: do I crave entertainment, power, and personal vindication about my supposed enemies more than I want fewer bodies dropping and souls departed?
I’ll let you decide how Grady Judd answers that question.
I answer it No; and I hope my behavior reflects that answer. I certainly try, within the confines of my human fallibility.
With that in mind, I consider keeping murder score by political color one of the stupidest, least productive uses of public policy time.
And yet, the same people calling me “groomer” because I don’t fear and hate and want to scapegoat gay and trans people are the same people lying about Massachusetts and New York, calling them more murderous states than Florida because “blue” politicians run them. They are not.
Florida is a more murderous state, as are a host of other “red” states. Indeed, “red” states tolerate, politically, a level of murder that blue states do not. That’s just a fact of the data. And when a lie is used as a weapon of power accumulation by garbage people, you have to confront the lie and the people — or submit to them both. I don’t plan to submit to either.
But this has no ultimate bearing on reducing murder at scale — because murder is almost entirely a personal or commercial act.
It’s true that large parts of the GOP are publicly inciting political violence— or ignoring the incitement out of fear or sympathy. But even so, political murder is far rarer than personal murder. And no one in any party or faction has a monopoly on the approaches that might reduce personal murder. After all, the murder-committing class is pretty non-political, in my observation.
With that in mind, I hope I’ve given you some anti-murder ideas to consider here, particularly around the correlations of legal cannabis, regardless of your cultural or political point-of-view.
I’m happy to work with anyone who answers the question I asked above in the way that I do. And maybe, some of you “red” people can convince Grady to join us by confronting himself and his legacy morally and productively.