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Leafly study debunks dispensary myths around crime & teen use

May 13, 2019

Evidence-based studies refute dispensary fears

When a state legalizes cannabis, local municipal officials are put in a tough spot: they have the power to allow or prohibit cannabis stores from opening in their jurisdiction. It’s done through property zoning.

Once the issue comes up for vote, the discussion is often dominated by imagined fears. Law enforcement leaders warn about crime increases. Parents worry about their kids having easier access to cannabis. Real estate agents forecast doom for any neighborhood surrounding a cannabis store. Pew Research has found a 25 point gap between support for legalization (75%), and support for a store nearby (50%).

A review of the research finds that cannabis dispensaries improve public safety, health, and nearby property values—contrary to previous fears.

All too often, the result is a complete ban on cannabis stores—which has the unintentional effect of propping up the local illicit market. Here’s the rub: Cannabis stores actually improve public safety, health, and property values, a finding supported by research.

In a review of 42 key studies, Leafly’s team of data analysts, researchers, and editors found that the broad body of published research suggests crime near licensed dispensaries has generally stayed flat or decreased. Teen cannabis use in legalization states has fallen since legalization. And property values near cannabis outlets generally are not affected or even rise.

Leafly’s report examined 42 published studies on the effects of cannabis medical dispensaries and adult-use stores. (Click to download.)

Click here to download ‘Debunking Dispensary Myths’

That literature review, “Debunking Dispensary Myths,” is intended to better inform civic debate at the city, state, and national levels. Leafly is sharing the report with elected officials, legislative aides, activists, industry groups, and researchers nationwide, as well as presenting the findings at upcoming events.

Fears surrounding local cannabis stores have prompted many communities to prohibit cannabis companies in their towns, cities, and counties. Millions of adult consumers now living in legal states find it impossible to purchase legally in their own towns.

Leafly found that as of May 1, 2019:

  • In California, 75% of jurisdictions have banned cannabis stores.
  • In Colorado, 65% of cities and counties have similar bans.
  • In Massachusetts, 54% of the state’s 351 municipalities have banned cannabis stores.
  • In Washington, 35% of cities and 20% of counties have banned cannabis stores.
  • In Nevada, 75% of counties and 42% of cities prohibit cannabis stores.

 

Clean stores, good neighbors

In Colorado and Washington, where data is now available from five years of adult-use cannabis sales, many local officials have switched from hesitance to confidence in the positive benefits of well-regulated stores. Cannabis companies “are tremendous employers and socially responsible members of the communities in which they operate,” said Ron Kammerzell, former senior director of enforcement at the Colorado Dept. of Revenue.

The Lux cannabis store in Seattle’s Lake City neighborhood is the cleanest, brightest property in a transitional business district. (Photo courtesy of Lux)

Dispensaries add 6% to 8% to home values

Some of the data backing up that conclusion:

  • Crime rates unaffected: An overwhelming majority of studies—including one from the journal Preventive Medicine in 2018, and a Federal Reserve Bank 2017 paper—found no increase in crime related to the location of medical marijuana dispensaries or adult-use retail stores.
  • Teen use unaffected specifically, declines generally: Colorado and Oregon state health reports show teen cannabis use is flat or down since licensed adult-use stores opened. In Washington, a 2018 JAMA Pediatrics study concluded use had fallen. Federally administered surveys show the 2016 teen use rate was the lowest in more than 20 years.
  • Property values increase: A 2016 study in the journal Economic Inquiry concluded allowing stores added 6% to city home prices, compared to ban towns. A 2018 study in the journal Contemporary Economic Policy found home prices went up by 7.7% within a half-mile of a new cannabis store

“Debunking Dispensary Myths” identifies and examines the most reliable studies on medical and adult-use cannabis stores. In the report, Leafly editors David Downs and Bruce Barcott worked with cannabis policy expert Dominic Corva, co-director of the Humboldt Institute for Interdisciplinary Marijuana Research (HIIMR) at Humboldt State University in Arcata, CA.

Over the coming years, virtually every city council and county supervisorial board will eventually have to weigh the pros and cons of cannabis retail.“We can all have different opinions, but we have to work from the same set of facts,” said Leafly CEO Tim Leslie. “These discussions should be informed by the best available research, not imagined fears and archaic mythology.”

David Downs and Bruce Barcott's Bio Image

David Downs and Bruce Barcott

David Downs is Leafly's California editor and host of The Hash podcast. Bruce Barcott is Leafly's deputy editor and host of The Roll-Up podcast.

View David Downs and Bruce Barcott's articles

5 part series

  • That 7.7% house price increase stat is so eye opening.

    Certain we’re going to see a lot more of those kind of figures going forward.

  • 360dunk

    Nice to see teen use drop…..need to point out something misleading in this article though. Stating that 75% of counties and 42% of cities in Nevada prohibit dispensaries is not what it seems since 3/4 of the entire population lives in Clark County, which is legal. Reno up north is also legal so of the 3 million residents in Nevada, the vast majority live near legal dispensaries.

  • Carol J Galvin

    Great to see teen use down. This is for adults to be able to feel better. I knew the crime rate would go down. It will go down even more as time goes on.

  • jontomas

    From the “testimony” of local officials making these irrational bans, I’d say it’s not really about crime, child marijuana use, or property values, although they may rant around those ideas. — For the most part, it’s not the people of these towns doing this. Most of them voted for legalization. It’s the corrupt town councils and county commissioners that are brazenly bigoted. – They just don’t want “those people” having a building where they can legally exist, and they don’t want them acting like they can walk around in public like real citizens.

  • jontomas

    Oh, brother. Here come the Greedy Sellers Against Legalization (GSAL) – You folks fought against legalization in every state. – You just can’t seem to understand. Marijuana reform is about freeing the CONSUMERS – period. – But you don’t really care about the freedom of your “precious” customers, do you? – You just want to protect your outrageously high prices and quasi-monopolies.

    Get used to reality. – After the dust settles on re-legalization, average quality marijuana will sell for $50 an ounce, or less, and be sold wherever beer and wine are available. – It’s just a plant. — I can’t wait.