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Does Closing Medical Marijuana Dispensaries Increase Crime? Study Says Yes

July 13, 2017
Does Closing Medical Marijuana Dispensaries Increase Crime? Study Says Yes(joshuaraineyphotography/iStock)
While Attorney General Jeff Sessions mulls over how to take down legal cannabis in the United States—making ludicrous comments like “DARE became fundamental to our success,” to a group of supporters of the war on drugs—a new study shows that closing medical marijuana dispensaries actually increases crime in the area where they operated.

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Published in July’s Journal of Urban Economics, the study Going to Pot? The Impact of Dispensary Closures on Crime, by Tom Chang of the USC Marshall School of Business and Mireille Jacobson of the Paul Merage School of Business at UC-Irvine, correlates medical dispensaries to restaurants.

The study found a connection between restaurants and dispensaries—specifically, when either one closed in the Los Angeles area (where the study took place), crime increased around the former location. Both medical dispensaries and restaurants attract bystanders and eyeballs, and if one of those closes in an area, it generally leads to certain types of crime, mainly property crime and car thefts.

“Contrary to popular wisdom, we found an immediate increase in crime around dispensaries ordered to close relative to those allowed to remain open,” Jacobson told Science Daily.

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Jacobson adds, “The connection between restaurants and medical marijuana dispensaries is that they both contribute to the ‘walkability score’ of a given area. Areas with higher scores have more ‘eyes upon the street’—a factor that is proven to deter some types of crime.”

When the two professors examined the impact of temporary restaurant closures in Los Angeles County, they found an increase in crime similar to what they found with medical dispensaries: an increase in car thefts, property crime, and thefts.

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Both Jacobson and Chang attributed this result to the fact that these types of crimes are generally deterred if bystanders are present. Also, the study found that once a restaurant reopened, crime immediately went back to where it was before the closure.

As Jacobson said, “We can conclude from our research that retail businesses are effective in lowering crime, even when the retail business is a medical marijuana dispensary.”

To check out the full study, you can find it here.

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Gage Peake

Gage Peake is a former staff writer for Leafly, where he specialized in data journalism, sports, and breaking news coverage. He's a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln's College of Journalism and Mass Communications.

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  • jenniferc2112

    Maybe the people in the direct vicinity will be spared. I saw a guy come out of one that needed to be hospitalised. Screaming and cursing and threatening everyone down the street. I probably should have called 911 for a 5150 but I was too scared to let him out of my view and then my bus came.

    • Dan White

      Really? You need some education about Marijuana. Your words stress the point of how many people are sheltered in this world. You are speaking with zero experience in this area. You should save your comments to yourself.

      “I drove by this liquor store the other day and a little girl was hit by a drunk driver. Then I come to find out that the drivers alcoholism contributed to the collapse of his family and his career. I then found out alcoholism is the third highest causes of death in the US. Every 51 minutes someone is killed in a alcohol related crash. ”
      Read…
      https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/overview-alcohol-consumption/alcohol-facts-and-statistics

      Can you find one death from Marijuana alone in the history of the United States? No you can’t! Education is amazing lady… Give it a try. You sound ignorant!

    • COLiberal

      How vague of a comment can you make? Pretty vague.

    • noah vail

      this looks like “fake news” to me…no one partakes of cannabis inside the dispensaries, ergo; if said person was in need of hospitalization it was due to some other condition….maybe Jennifer needs a little attention

    • Joe Tittiger

      You would have fit in well with the brown shirts of Nazi Germany. Your government schooling indoctrinated you very well.

    • Ima Straight

      I’m not sure how your comment relates to a person in need and on the street-anywhere.
      We can thank Sessions, and a loooong line of Republicans before him, for attempting to deny access to mental health care and closing mental health facilities. The dispensary probably asked him to leave, as would a restaurant, drugstore, or gas station.
      People leave bars all the time “screaming and cursing and threatening” and yet there are more bars than ever, everywhere.
      Perhaps you could clarify your point here?

    • Vida Sawyer

      Yeah, sometimes people have mental breaks. Sometimes they have them in dispensaries. They also have them alone at home, at their jobs, and walking through parks. We’ll have to close all those things down or ban them or something because obviously they’re causing people to spontaneously go crazy…

      ::facepalm::

      Dispensaries actually *generally* cut down on bad behavior by patients because they’re ready to call the cops immediately if there is trouble; a lot of of us wear panic buttons or have security guards at the door. No owner of a dispensary is going to risk the millions of dollars and hard work they put into having a cannabis business for a person who has mental health issues.

      Last thing, if you thought MAYBE you should call 911 but then didn’t, you were a part of the problem that day. Or maybe the problem wasn’t as bad as you’re claiming and no one needed to be called at all?

  • Joseph Baker

    that is what they want is crime if no crime no job

    • Joe Tittiger

      “There’s no way to rule innocent men. The only power government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren’t enough criminals, one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws. ” ~(paraphrased: Page 406 of Ayn Rand’s, Atlas Shrugged )

    • Gregory Sarmas Sr.

      This is dead on,Im from Chicago and when you look at the ridiculous gun laws that have done nothing and the murder rate which is sky rocketing as a result of street drugs/gangs,over legislation of marijuanna is well just plain stupid.Illinois is the 5 star stupid state ready to go bankrupt along with Chicago.Less crime is less cops, lawyers, and less corporate prisons.

  • Todd Burgess

    The “Black Market” gains the most in Washington state since July 2016 medical dispensaries have been closed.
    They ( Wa.state) effed up big time with their never ending greed and need to impose taxes.
    In the word of Trump, ” Sad. “

  • originalone

    How does the old saying go about “a wolf in Sheep’s clothing”, or the “Government hates competition”, or even “they were dragged kicking & screaming into the night”? Changes, the 21st Century, Medicine has progressed beyond the blood letting of the ancients.

  • Joe Tittiger

    Jeff Sessions should be charged under USC title 18 sections 241 & 242. (violation of rights under color of law and it does provide for the death penalty) Or with treason, as considering my body his property is about as treasonous as it gets. And treason also can carry the death penalty. FWIW I would volunteer to pull the switch on this criminal.

  • VajraKING

    So many great points. Chicago is being transformed by the CIA in order to gain access to land. These guys are not registering guns in stores, nor do they manufacture them. They are simply being dumped into areas that have