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Study: Crimes Spike Following Closing of Dispensaries

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director July 5, 2017

    3410000930_95fc2866fa_zThe closure of medical marijuana dispensaries is associated with an increase in larceny, property crimes, and other criminal activities, according to data published in the Journal of Urban Economics.

    Researchers at the University of Southern California and the University of California, Irvine assessed the impact of dispensary closures on neighborhood crimes rates in the city of Los Angeles. Investigators analyzed crime data in the days immediately prior to and then immediately after the city ordered several hundred operators to be closed. Authors reported an immediate increase in criminal activity – particularly property crime, larceny, and auto break ins – in the areas where dispensary operations were forced to close as compared to those neighborhoods were dispensaries remained open.

    “[W]e find no evidence that closures decreased crime,” authors wrote. “Instead, we find a significant relative increase in crime around closed dispensaries.” Specifically, researchers estimated that “an open dispensary provides over $30,000 per year in social benefit in terms of larcenies prevented.”

    They concluded, “Contrary to popular wisdom, we find an immediate increase in crime around dispensaries ordered to close relative to those allowed to remain open. The increase is specific to the type of crime most plausibly deterred by bystanders, and is correlated with neighborhood walkability. … A likely … mechanism is that ‘eyes upon the street’ deter some types of crime.”

    The findings are consistent with those of prior studies determining that dispensary operations are not associated with ‘spillover effects’ in local communities, such as increased teen use or increased criminality.

    An abstract of the study, “Going to pot? The impact of dispensary closures on crime,” appears online here.

    6 Responses to “Study: Crimes Spike Following Closing of Dispensaries”

    1. Dain Bramage says:

      I had to look up the definition of the word “crime”, in an attempt to understand this information more fully. Because, as a proponent of marijuana legalization, I feel that the question of what constitutes a crime, and why, is at the heart of the matter.

      A crime is defined firstly as a violation of the laws of a government or state; crime is defined secondarily as an offense against morality; and thirdly, a crime can mean anything that is shameful, regrettable, deplorable, reprehensible, foolish, or disgraceful.

      Marijuana is considered a crime by the Federal Government (now the Trump Dictatorship.) But it is not an offense against morality, nor is it shameful, regrettable, deplorable, etc.

      I have always understood, using common sense, that this means marijuana use may be illegal, but it is not wrong.

      Given this truth then, coupled with an awareness and an understanding of the lack of validity to the justifications for marijuana prohibition, as well as of the grave harm prohibition inflicts on the citizenry, it then becomes obvious that marijuana prohibition is itself a crime against humanity.

      So, this makes shutting down an otherwise legal dispensary a criminal act.

      Dispensaries are a sign of civilization.

      • Dain Bramage says:

        I spaced out for a minute, let me complete my thought: my conclusion is that it is reasonable to expect studies to show that fascist crackdowns on our civilian freedoms, and on our civilization itself, will be accompanied by a host of additional, ancillary crimes. Without civilization, anarchy and lawlessness will surely result.

        Of course, for War Profiteers like marijuana prohibitionists, this was always the goal all along: not civilization, but rather, absolute power.

    2. Julian says:

      Fascinating study, Paul, thank you for your important work.

      Ive been highly critical of the phrase “Spike in study” on this blog, too often an abused method of exaggerating new data gathering, not only for daytime talk shows but our enemies at Project SAM as well.
      Look at what AAA is doing to us. Once legalization started tapping on their back door in the magical land of Delaware, they started distorting data contradicting the NHTSA’s conclusions that marijuana was not a cause of fatal accident increases and even testifying ridiculous nonsense that didn’t have anything to do with their expertise. They took Washington state’s data, which was the first time traffic related accidents and marijuana consumption had been studied, and called out a “spike” in fatal accident related to marijuana. Related; another loaded word. Related to opiates? Is the study controlled? No. Was it peer reviewed? No. Was it longitudinal? No.

      So imagine the scrutiny I applied to the way this blog was titled? A “spike?”

      Except in this case, we DO have peer reviewed, controlled, longitudinal data to support a “spike” in crime where dispensaries are shut down. Its hard to believe Colorado legalization has been around longer than my three year old niece. Washington state has been legal long enough to show marijuana legalization actually reduces traffic fatalities as it reduces opiate addiction.

      We should remain vigilant and skeptical of the word “spike” as well as we should NOT be citing morning talk shows for our scientific data. Thanks to Deputy Director Armentano we have a library of studies on this web site with links to PubMed to use when writing and visiting our Congressman.
      So in this case I applaud the “spike” in our marijuana vocabulary. Perhaps it will get the good attention legalization deserves instead of some goon on the Today show telling us theres a “spike” in data just collected today; “milk chocolate can make us lose weight!”
      If only.

    3. Tiffany Wellington says:

      Its a bummer that marijuana is still federally illegal. If this weren’t the case then marijuana would be much farther along. For example, money and resources would be devoted to marijuana research and companies would invest more into their product, making it safer. Despite all odds there is a company out there that is taking matters into their own hands. Its called Quanta and they are the first cannabis company to change marijuana on a molecular level. They are able to separate molecules within cannabis creating a desired and consistent result every time.
      Doesn’t this sound very similar to what todays big pharma are doing to prescription drugs?

      • Mark Mitcham says:

        @ Tiffany Wellington,

        First thoughts: I would question the premise that “separating the molecules” makes cannabis any safer or better, when whole-plant cannabis is already perfectly safe, and essentially perfect.

        But regardless of any potential theoretical advancements, nothing justifies the continued prohibition of the natural cannabis plant and flower.

    4. Victor says:

      Just looking at the benefits created by some of these dispensaries, it seems obvious that their research would conclude that closing dispensaries has a disparaging effect on their surroundings. I mean, look at just some of the benefits that immediately come to mind: jobs, increased security, tax revenue, and the legitimizing of an otherwise underground industry. By which I mean, it’s either regulated and sold in a relatively safe environment like a dispensary or it’s sold in the streets by what are sometimes criminal elements, increasing the risk to patients. Anyways, I’m just glad to see some solid data published in an actual journal to support what would have otherwise merely been a theory of mine that lacked the hard data to support it.

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