A recent study has demonstrated that the closure of medical marijuana dispensaries actually results in a rise in crime rates. What’s more, the rise in crime is both immediate and proximate. Crime levels went up in the immediate aftermath of the closure of medical marijuana dispensaries. This is an important finding in the wake on ongoing marijuana legalization and goes contrary to popular belief that there is an association between marijuana and crime. The myth that marijuana leads to an increase in crime is being revealed as no more than a thin veneer on which to prosecute cannabis users. It was always dubious that a plant with a tendency to relax people could ever encourage individuals to commit crime. Marijuana was banned in 1937 but has been used throughout history as a natural remedy for a variety of conditions.
Marijuana Dispensaries and Crime Rates
According to data published in the Journal of Urban Economics, the closure of medical marijuana dispensaries results in a rise in crime in the associated area. Property crimes and larceny are the two main types of crime where the increase was reported. The statistics were compared to crime rates where medical marijuana dispensaries were allowed to remain open. The authors of the study wrote that:
“We find no evidence that closures decreased crime. Instead, we find a significant relative increase in crime around closed dispensaries.”
What is even more interesting is that the researchers estimated that by allowing medical marijuana dispensaries to remain open, the dispensary would provide another $30,000 a year in terms of prevented larcenies. The economic benefits of marijuana legalization are not to be ignored, even aside from the obvious health and social benefits. It generates revenue at the local, federal and state level and has the added side effect of healthier, happier citizens who will be more productive. It will result in a reduction of crime rates which is also very costly to local businesses and to taxpayers in general.
Why the Reduction?
However, the reasons given for the reduction in crime rates are not just because of the medical marijuana industry itself. At first glance, it appears that the availability of marijuana is what leads to an increase or a decrease in the crime rate. As noted by the authors:
“Contrary to popular wisdom, we find an immediate increase in crime around dispensaries ordered to close relative to those allowed to remain open. The increase is specific to the type of crime most plausibly deterred by bystanders, and is correlated with neighborhood walkability. … A likely … mechanism is that ‘eyes upon the street’ deter some types of crime.”
What this means is that the fact that crime decreased had nothing at all to do with marijuana medical dispensaries. Any type of popular business results in more people on the street. And the ‘eyes upon the streets’ are a crime deterrent, as the types of crime that are reduced, larceny and property crime, are the types of crime which are dependent on eye witnesses. Other studies have shown that the there is a correlation between how often these types of crime are committed and the population density of the surrounding urban environment.
A Point of Dispute
While any type of business may serve to reduce crime, there may well be more to this than meets the eye. While crime reduction is noted with the opening of any type of business, never has the reduction in crime been this swift or intense. The study, conducted at the university of California and titled: Going to Pot? The Impact of Dispensary Closures on Crime, examined the closure of 439 medical dispensaries in Los Angeles in 2010. There was a 12% increase in crime in the months that followed, a number that is not seen as high or as swiftly in other studies. In Denver, Colorado, an 8% reduction in crime was observed when a medical marijuana dispensary was opened in the area.
The closure of marijuana dispensaries results in rise in crime that is beyond the closure of other businesses. The reason for this is unknown, however it is possible that marijuana is a vital herb needed in particular by the type of people who are predisposed to commit crime. They are in need of the physiological and emotional support that is provided by the plant. And when this plant is not available the response is immediate. The obvious reaction is to turn to crime as a backlash of a crackdown on what should be a fundamental human right – to consume a plant which mimics chemical components produced by the human body.
It is apparent that shutting down medical marijuana dispensaries increases crime rates, beyond the opening of simple business outlets. It is in the interests of everyone that these dispensaries remain open as it will decrease crime and increase local business and social wellbeing. And the relationship between marijuana and crime is the opposite of what was once believed. It is obvious that when marijuana is available rates of crime go down.