Opponents of cannabis legalization often argue that allowing sales in their neighborhoods will lead to an increase in crime, but a new federally-funded study has found evidence to the contrary. Researchers from four universities in Kansas and California, partially supported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), published a study this week that analyzed crime rates near medical cannabis dispensaries in South Los Angeles and compared them to crime rates near alcohol stores and tobacco shops in the same neighborhoods.
Researchers examined crime data from 2014 and noted the number of felony property or violent crimes that occurred within 100 to 1000 feet of all three kinds of retailers in low-income, high-crime neighborhoods in South LA. The researchers found that "property and violent crime rates within 100-foot buffers of tobacco shops and alcohol outlets — but not MMDs [medical marijuana dispensaries]— substantially exceeded community-wide mean crime rates."
Marijuana Moment highlighted three reasons why the research suggests medical cannabis dispensaries might attract less crime than alcohol or tobacco storefronts,: "(1) presence of visible property safeguards (e.g., security cameras), which may lower dispensary-related violence, (2) visual anonymity of many MMDs to passers-by including potential offenders, and (3) MMDs' tendency to close or relocate quickly — e.g., by June 2015, few MMDs operated at their 2014 locations."
The study reported that convenience and grocery stores that sell alcohol and/or tobacco were also safer than dedicated alcohol or tobacco stores. The researchers wrote that this study provides "the first empirical evidence that tobacco shops may constitute public health threats that associate with crime and violence in U.S. low-income urban communities of color." Despite the warnings of cannabis prohibitionists, medical marijuana dispensaries were not associated with increases in violent or property crimes.