Study Finds Crime Increased After L.A. Dispensaries Forced To Close

Just Released! Get realistic market forecasts, state-by-state insights and benchmarks with the new 2024 MJBiz Factbook member program, now with quarterly updates. Make informed decisions.

MMJ opponents often claim that medical marijuana leads to an increase in crime. But as we pointed out in a previous post, the stats and information used to back up these claims are often inconclusive and questionable. In fact, some studies show that crime decreases when pot shops come to town.

Now we have another interesting twist in the debate. A recent study found that a move by Los Angeles to shut down dispensaries actually led to an increase in crime. The report, spearheaded by the nonprofit organization RAND Corp., examines crime statistics 10 days before and 10 days after L.A. shuttered several hundred pot shops in June 2010.

The number of assaults, break-ins and other types of crime was 60 percent higher within three blocks of closed dispensaries vs. areas surrounding MMCs that were allowed to remain open.

Researchers behind the study cited increased outdoor drug activity, decreased foot traffic and the absence of security measures that dispensaries took as possible reasons behind the increase in crime.

Yes, you can poke holes in the study. Ten days isn’t a long enough period to draw any solid conclusions. But these are still pretty startling findings, as they run counter to the conventional wisdom. And just as importantly, the study was conducted by an outside company with no connections to either side of the medical marijuana debate – giving it more credibility than reports by law enforcement and pot advocacy groups.

“If medical marijuana dispensaries are causing crime, then there should be a drop in crime when they close,” Mireille Jacobson, the lead author of the study, said in a press release. “Individual dispensaries may attract crime or create a neighborhood nuisance, but we found no evidence that medical marijuana dispensaries in general cause crime to rise.”

The study – which can be found in its entirety here – provides dispensary owners with some ammo to counter arguments that dispensaries lead to increased crime.