You’ve no doubt read articles about dispensaries robbed at gunpoint. And we’ve all heard about attacks on workers delivering medical marijuana. It’s enough to make you want to close up shop or abandon plans to start a medical marijuana center.
Lawmakers who oppose the medical marijuana industry often cite these examples when bashing the industry, saying dispensaries lead to an increase in crime. But do the statistics back up that claim? Not quite.
As with anything, you can manipulate the small pool of crime data to prove your point, either way. Some people – including law enforcement officials – warn that legalizing medical marijuana fuels crime. Take this 2009 piece from Westword, in which the commander of the Northern Colorado Drug Task Force highlights several crimes – including robberies, burglaries and a kidnapping – tied to the medical marijuana industry. More recently, officials with Montana’s narcotics bureau said that crime has risen in 78 percent of the state’s jurisdictions since medical pot was legalized there.
But it’s easy to poke holes in this data, or at least question it. Often, police officials speak generally about medical marijuana-related crime statistics or don’t offer the entire picture. We never hear about how the stats compare to, say, crimes involving banks or liquor stores. It’s also important to examine the normal crime rate surrounding pot in general. In other words, is there an actual increase in marijuana crimes, or have some simply shifted over to the medical-related, legitimate businesses? And we need to know whether overall crime rates went up – and by how much (a key stat that the Montana narcotics bureau did not release).
There is ample evidence that legalizing medical marijuana does not have an impact on crime.
A story in the Denver Post earlier this year offers some evidence that crime has not increased in Colorado cities with dispensaries. One telling quote: “It’s not like I have seen excessive reports involving violence linked to medical marijuana,” said Steve Fox, director of public affairs for the National Cannabis Industry Association. “It’s no different from any normal business. You always will have robberies and break-ins where someone believes there are valuables.'”
Additionally, statistics from one community near San Diego show “no correlation between crime and medical marijuana dispensaries.”
Until there is more concrete data, be skeptical of claims that cities with medical marijuana centers have higher crime rates.