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Study: Closure of Medical Marijuana Dispensaries Causes Crime Stats to Rise

Photo by Justin Cannabis

A new study has found that closing medical marijuana dispensaries does not reduce crime in neighborhoods, but rather, causes the exact opposite.

Once again, we have academia and science to prove our point: weed dispensaries make for good neighbors.

According to data, published in the Journal of Urban Economics, researchers found that closing MMJ dispensaries was associated with an increase in larceny, property crimes, car break-ins and other street crime in the surrounding areas.

The authors, Tom Y. Chang (USC Business School) and Mireille Jacobson (UC Irvine Business School), attribute this spike in crime to a lack of foot traffic and public engagement in the neighborhoods.

They looked at the closure of more than 400 MMJ dispensaries in California in 2010 and published their commentary recently in the Harvard Business Review:

“Surprisingly, we discovered that the closures were associated with a significant increase in crime in the blocks immediately surrounding a closed dispensary, compared with the blocks around dispensaries allowed to remain open. Our results demonstrated that the dispensaries were not the crime magnets that they were often described as, but instead reduced crime in their immediate vicinity. And when breaking down the effect by types of crime, we found that the increases in crime after dispensary closures were driven by the types of crime most plausibly deterred by bystanders: property crime and theft from vehicles.”

The authors also examined the impact of temporarily closing down restaurants in Los Angeles for public health code violations. They found essentially the same crime patterns as closed dispensaries. In the case of restaurants, the increase in crime disappeared as soon as the restaurant reopened.

Comparing closed down restaurants and dispensaries (MMDs), they found:

One key factor common to retail establishments, whether MMDs or restaurants, is that they generate foot traffic. And with foot traffic comes informal surveillance.”

The authors recalled a groundbreaking book by Jane Jacobs, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, which is a look at the short-sighted urban planning that caused the decline of many of our great city neighborhoods; once vibrant urban centers were allowed to decline into blight while suburbia grew.

The conclusion, in line with the recent study about MMJ dispensaries, is that people make neighborhoods.

These days when looking for apartments, one can check out the “walk score” to determine how close you are to businesses, restaurants, coffee shops, grocery stores, etc. In other words, foot traffic, all of which tend to make a neighborhood safe, welcoming and fun.

And what could be more fun than a friendly weed dispensary around the corner?

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