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Study Finds that Closing Dispensaries May Actually Cause an Increase in Crime Rates


In 2010, there was a mass shut down of dispensaries in the Los Angeles area. There was a total of 439 dispensaries closed because they were no longer compliant with the city’s regulations once they changed. While prohibitionists would have you believe that having dispensaries in the area will increase the crime rate, a recent study published in the Journal of Urban Economics says quite the opposite.

“[W]e find no evidence that closures decreased crime,” authors wrote. “Instead, we find a significant relative increase in crime around closed dispensaries.” Specifically, researchers estimated that “an open dispensary provides over $30,000 per year in social benefit in terms of larcenies prevented.”

The study, conducted by the University of Southern California and University of California, Irvine, found that in areas where dispensaries closed they saw about a 12% increase in crime. Specifically, there was an increase in larceny, property crimes and auto break-ins. The findings are similar to those of a previous study in Denver, conducted by Marijuana Policy Project, which found an 8.2% decrease in crime after a dispensary was introduced to the neighborhood.

It also falls right in line with the same kind of increase in crime in an area after a restaurant closes (or when many do). It goes to show that the more people are around, the less chance there is a crime will be committed – and having restaurants, or dispensaries, or any other type of retail establishment in the area is going to improve the “walkability score” and likely decrease crime in the area.

“Contrary to popular wisdom, we found an immediate increase in crime around dispensaries ordered to close relative to those allowed to remain open,” Jacobson told Science Daily. “Our results demonstrate that the dispensaries were not the crime magnets that they were often described as, but instead reduced crime in their immediate vicinity.”

Studies like this are great because they help correct the myths that continue to circulate as reasons against legalizing cannabis. It has proven beneficial to entire communities in many ways, including reducing opioid-related overdoses, and now we have some proof that dispensaries actually help to decrease crime in neighborhoods.