Science-- there's something for everyone

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Good news for opening medical marijuana dispensaries—crime doesn’t go up

Seventeen states plus the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana for medicinal purposes. In those areas, people can get a prescription from their doctors to use marijuana, which can be filled at medical marijuana dispensaries (MMD). The fact that this action puts these states into conflict with federal law is not something I wish to get into at the moment.  Instead, I’ll let Nancy Kepple and Bridget Freisthler from the University of California, Los Angeles answer the question of how these marijuana outlets affect the local crime rate.

You might think that dispensing a commodity that is both in high demand and generally illegal would guarantee a high localized crime rate, all the more so because such businesses are mostly cash-based. The dispensaries, the employees and even the customers (on their way in with cash or out with marijuana) are likely targets for attack.

To see if this was so, the authors divided Sacramento into 95 tracts and marked the locations of all known MMDs as of June 16, 2009. They then compared the crime rate in those various tracts. Neighborhoods with a high density of marijuana outlets did not have more crime than regions with few or no outlets.

To be clear, this study only looked at crime rates at one point in time. It may be the case that crime does increase over time in neighborhoods with dispensaries. However, it does appear that the arrival of MMDs in a community does not necessarily result in an increase in crime.