A common perception, supported by law enforcement, that medical marijuana dispensaries boost the crime rate in areas where they’re located may not be accurate, according to a recent study by UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs researchers.
Bridget Freisthler, associate professor of social welfare at the Luskin School, and Luskin graduate student Nancy Kepple, studied crime rates in nearly 100 areas of Sacramento and did not find an increase in crime in those areas. The study, published in the July issue of the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, calls into question a 2009 California Police Chief’s report. Substantiating evidence is lacking on both sides of the question, the researchers say.
Kepple and Freisthler looked at violent and property crime rates and the density of medical marijuana outlets in the Sacramento neighborhoods during 2009. Not surprisingly, commercial districts and neighborhoods with high unemployment rates tended to have more property crime and violent crime. But there was no correlation between crime and the concentration of medical marijuana outlets.
As more U.S. states have legalized the use of marijuana for medical reasons, there have been growing concerns that the dispensaries that sell the drug — and the people who go there — will become targets for crime.
"The reality is, we haven't had any evidence to support those claims," said Kepple.
In news coverage posted in U.S. News & World Report, Freisthler and Kepple say their findings are the starting point for continued study of the long-term impacts of marijuana dispensaries on communities. Their research was funded by the National Institute of Drug Abuse at the National Institutes of Health.