The medical cannabis community rejoiced several months ago when a study by independent think tank RAND Corp. found that crime actually increased in areas of Los Angeles where pot dispensaries were forced to close. Until then, the conventional wisdom had been that closing cannabis centers would lower crime, as MMJ opponents have long argued that dispensaries attract unsavory characters.
The RAND study, however, seemed to show that dispensaries had a positive effect on crime, helping increase foot traffic in certain neighborhoods and providing people with a legal way of obtaining marijuana. Pot proponents figured the study would help offset some of the community blowback they’ve received.
As with everything in the medical marijuana industry, however, the reality isn’t so black and white.
RAND ended up pulling the study from its website after law enforcement officials and other critics said the firm used faulty methodology, adding that the report covered too short of a time period (it only examined stats for 10 days before and 10 days after the dispensaries closed) and conflicted with police data.
Now, a segment on Fox 11 News in L.A. asserts that dispensaries are often “magnets” of armed robberies and other crimes. Instead of serving up data, it features numerous video clips from taken by surveillance cameras at MMCs around town. In one clip, a robber drags a female worker around the store in a choke-hold with a gun to her head. In another, several armed men jump a counter and overcome a security guard, making off with thousands of dollars in cash and trash bags full of marijuana.
It’s a shocking and somewhat sobering report, to be sure. But it isn’t exactly fair and balanced. The reporter doesn’t cite any official statistics to put the video footage in context or give viewers an idea of the bigger picture. By these standards, one might think the most dangerous place on earth is a 7-Eleven, where plenty of crimes occur.
Still, it is certainly something to be concerned about. Crime is a part of the MMJ business, though the extent of it is up for debate. The TV report will no doubt be used to bolster the case against dispensaries in some communities. While the jury is still out on the relation between dispensaries and crime, the footage adds a new dimension to the discussion.