As efforts to shut down dispensaries and disfranchise patients are on the rise across the nation, an all too common piece of political and law enforcement “reasoning” states that dispensaries somehow generate or foster crime in their neighborhoods. Such declarations rightly infuriate the people actually running and using dispensaries, not only because they have no relation to the reality they see, but also because underlying these actions is the archaic notion that anything related to marijuana is tied to crime somehow. The War on Drugs has brainwashed many Americans to the point where actually thinking about the backstory to a substance’s ban is irrelevant when weighted against a government directive.
Everywhere, cities are creating zoning restrictions on marijuana dispensaries to keep them away from schools and churches, as if there was some inherent immorality about people getting their medicine. Just this week, California Governor Jerry Brown vetoed an anti-marijuana bill which would have particularly crippled LA dispensaries (and many others in dense urban areas) by mandating they all keep 600 feet away from schools. Sadly, just last month a bill was passed which allows cities to essentially ban marijuana dispensaries if they want to. Thus, ultimately this piece of good news is barely a dent in the nationwide push to keep the big bad dispensaries away from… well, everyone.
In response, the non-profit RAND corporation decided to actually look into the statistics behind this mindset and found that what actually happened around dispensaries was the exact opposite of what authorities would like people to believe. The RAND dispensary study, released on Tuesday, looked at crime statistics in areas surrounding some 600 LA dispensaries before and after a large number of them were ordered to close. What they found was that there was a sharp increase in crime in surrounding areas when dispensaries were closed. When compared to open dispensaries in similar areas, crime within three blocks of those that were shut down shot up by a remarkable 60%. The study focused on statistics 10 days before and after closings.
“If medical marijuana dispensaries are causing crime, then there should be a drop in crime when they close,” said the study’s lead author, Mireille Jacobson. She added that while “individual dispensaries may attract crime or create a neighborhood nuisance,” there is no evidence that LA dispensaries in general cause crime to rise. So there it is, not only do dispensaries not cause crime, their presence actually discourages it!
The study postulates some possible explanations for this, such as the increased security that dispensaries require in the form of cameras and guards. Additionally, the late operating hours of many LA dispensaries create nighttime foot traffic that would discourage would-be criminals. Other possible reason include reduced police attention once a dispensary closed down and a resurgence of black market drug trade.
In response to the study, Americans for Safe Access released a statement pointing out that their organization had “reached the same conclusions as RAND using a qualitative study of public officials with firsthand experience of how dispensaries reduce crime in their neighborhoods.” Even the LAPD’s own data shows that LA dispensaries are not the crime magnets that ignorant drug warriors believe them to be; in 2010, a study commissioned by Police Chief Charlie Beck found that “banks are more likely to get robbed than medical marijuana dispensaries.” Guess its time to shut down all those all those shady Bank of America branches!
Of course, those behind the shutdown are only too eager to ignore the data and carry on with their draconian policies. The Los Angeles city attorney was quick to throw everything and the kitchen sink at the study, saying it “relies exclusively upon faulty assumptions, conjecture, irrelevant data, untested measurement and incomplete results.” The statement dismissed it as “highly suspect and unreliable.” So what else is new, those pursuing marijuana prohibition have never been swayed by studies and statistics any more than by logic or compassion; they will continue their harassment and marginalization of marijuana dispensaries in Los Angeles and elsewhere in the name of regulation. Still, this report is a powerful tool for advocates willing to take the issue to the people and the communities most affected by the shutdowns. Nobody wants higher crime rates and perhaps selling the idea of new dispensaries can be re-packaged as an issue of safety and security, a free boon to areas struggling with violence and theft.
Disclaimer: These opinions and statements made in these posts are solely the authors and do not necessarily represent the opinion of 420 Petition and its parent company.