While the majority of U.S. citizens are onboard the Legalization Express, the voice of prohibition is hardly a whisper. Those who oppose federal legalization or even legal cannabis at the state level often paint nightmare scenarios of weed dispensaries on every street corner, plunging once safe neighborhoods into criminal despair. The concept sounds ridiculous but even in states where recreational weed has been legalized, lawmakers are successfully banning shops and dispensaries from opening their doors. However, according to a recent study, dispensaries may actually serve as a dam, holding back criminal floodwaters.
Open Weed Dispensaries Are Bad For Crime
The study entitled Going to pot? The impact of dispensary closures on crime
was published this month and analyzed behavior in the wake of the closure of hundreds of Los Angeles area medical cannabis dispensaries. Criminal behavior was monitored in neighborhoods where medical weed dispensaries were forced to close and the resulting data was compared against findings in areas where dispensaries were permitted to remain open to patients. The authors of the study, Tom Chang (University of Southern California) and Mireille Jacobson (University of California-Irvine) found a marked increase in criminal activity around areas where dispensaries had shuttered. Areas where dispensaries were allowed to carry on with business as usual showed no such increase in illegal behavior.
Closed Dispensaries Lead to Surges in Theft
Initially, I assumed the criminal increase would be due to a surge in black market marijuana sales but the results were actually a bit more surprising. It seems that, in most cases, the illegal activity was focused on property crimes – specifically, theft. In a 1/3 mile radius surrounding a closed facility, theft jumped up by 12%. And this percentage increased parallel to the closeness in proximity to the closed dispensary. 1/4 of a mile turned up a 30% increase in thefts and 1/8 of a mile produced a staggering 100% surge. What is the correlation? Are we really to believe that deprivation of medical marijuana could turn the average patient into a petty thief?
Marijuana Dispensaries are the Same as Any Retail Shop
Chang and Jacobson decided to expand their research to include a similar analysis of crime surrounding restaurant closures. It may come as little surprise that the results were similar to those surrounding the abandoned weed dispensaries. The study concludes that retail businesses are beneficial, one might even say essential, in curbing the criminal element in a given area. But reading between the lines, this also shows a truth that marijuana advocates fully understand; a truth that continues to elude the prohibitionists of America: cannabis dispensaries are no more hazardous for a community than any other regulated retail shop. Of course, this assumes the average prohibitionist is open to having his/her mind changed. Many have proven they’ll cling to outdated views with religious zeal.
The Los Angeles dispensary closures, dating back to 2010, were temporary. The researchers believe that when even more weed dispensaries and shops open their doors to the public in 2018, increased legal activity and foot traffic will result in a decrease in crime. Hard data and statistics may not be enough to convince hardcore prohibitionists of the safety in marijuana normalization. However, as the data is actually illustrated in motion, the opposition will have to begin to accept these facts as reality.