Marijuana dispensaries don’t increase crime

A new study by the RAND Corporation indicates that rather than marijuana dispensaries increasing crime, their presence is more likely to help substantially decrease all types of crime. The study found that with the closure of marijuana dispensaries in Los Angeles that all types of crime increased within the local area with a 150% increase in assaults in a 0.3 mile radius of the closed marijuana dispensary.


The study found that when a dispensary closed within a 0.3 mile radius there was a 59% increase in total crime, a 150% increase in breaking and entering and a 150% increase in assaults. Within a 0.6 mile radius total crime increased by 24%, breaking and entering increased by 58% and assaults by 89%. This is an enormous increase and it surely is hard to deny that there is a correlation between dispensaries closing and crime.


It’s not this study which has pointed to marijuana dispensaries being some crime infested oasis being completely untrue. In fact even the police in LA seem to agree that marijuana dispensaries are quite safe compared to other legal businesses such as banking. In 2010 the Los Angeles police Chief Charlie Beck said that "banks are more likely to get robbed than medical marijuana dispensaries." This is further backed up by statistics, there were 71 bank robberies in the 350 banks in city compared to the 47 robberies in the 800 marijuana dispensaries in the city. Is crime incidence an excuse to close banks? No ofcourse not yet it seems to be a great excuse when trying to argue that marijuana dispensaries should be closed.


The RAND Corporation offers several different potential explanations about why marijuana dispensaries seem to decrease crime rates. The first one was the amount of security which marijuana dispensaries are required to have such as security cameras and security personal. This added security seems to dissuade people from causing crime if the theory is correct however that does not explain why banks seem to have a higher rate of robberies considering one would expect the banks to have a high level of security.


The next potential explanation is the “eyes on the street” explanation; many of these dispensaries open for extended hours these extended hours are thought to mean more people on the street and thus deter criminals. If dispensaries provide security guards to protect customers then it might enhance the “eyes on the street” explanation.


The third explanation is that closing a marijuana dispensary does not remove the demand. By closing a dispensary there is a void in the market which is filled by illicit suppliers who move in, filling the void left by the closed dispensaries. There is no current study which tests this hypothesis but it does seem like a good reason, once you remove the legal source there will always be someone to take its place.


The forth explanation is police presence, the police may anticipate that dispensaries could have higher crime rates due to the generalised public perception that marijuana dispensaries create crime leading to the police to increase their presence around this dispensaries. Police however must be tracking how much crime there is and therefore use their resources accordingly. If there was a 59% increase in total crime a 0.3 mile radius of the closed dispensary and a 24% in a 0.6 mile radius then you’d think the police would notice that and therefore increase policing to that area.


The final explanation revolves round police pressure, the police might have ramped up police-related efforts in order to try and put pressure on the dispensaries to close. Once the dispensary has closed the police go elsewhere allowing crime to increase within the void left. This theory could tie in with the third explanation in that the police moving off after closing the dispensaries means that its easier for illicit drug dealers to set up without the risk of being arrested being abnormally high.


It seems that the fact that marijuana dispensaries have now been shown to decrease crime rather than increase crime is an inconvenient truth for those who have long argued that marijuana dispensaries cause crime. It has been one of the main arguments used against the opening marijuana dispensaries but that argument has been proven to be incorrect.