Does Closing Medical Marijuana Dispensaries Increase Crime? Study Says Yes

Published on July 13, 2017 · Last updated July 28, 2020
Does Closing Medical Marijuana Dispensaries Increase Crime? Study Says Yes

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.

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.

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.

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
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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