Do Medical Marijuana Dispensaries Increase Crime?

Public officials have been conflating marijuana use with crime since the 1930s (see film). Today, public safety fears about medical marijuana dispensaries are often cited; however the data does not support the notion that dispensaries cause crime. In fact, more than one study has shown a decrease in crime as a result of bringing medical marijuana sales out of the black market and into the light of day.

Legalizing Marijuana Helps Police Solve Other Crimes, New Study Shows
July 2018 – A study published in the journal Police Quarterly indicates that police clearance rates—a figure that represents the number of crimes that resulted in an arrest divided by the total number of reported crimes—increased in both Colorado and Washington post-legalization.

More Crime Near Alcohol And Tobacco Shops Than Marijuana Dispensaries, Study Finds
December 2017 – Medical marijuana dispensaries seem to attract much lower neighborhood crime rates than stores dedicated to selling alcohol and tobacco products.

Harvard Business Review: When a Dispensary Closes, Crime Increases Around It
That’s the conclusion suggested by the results of a new study published this week.
June 2017 – In 2010 Los Angeles initiated a mass closing of two-thirds of the dispensaries in the city. Researchers discovered that the closures were associated with a significant increase in crime in the blocks immediately surrounding a closed dispensary, compared with the blocks around dispensaries allowed to remain open.
The Effect of Medical Marijuana Laws on Crime: Evidence from State Panel Data, 1990-2006 PLOS, March 2014
Results did not indicate a crime exacerbating effect of medical marijuana laws on any of the Part I offenses [homicide, rape, robbery, assault, burglary, larceny, and auto theft]. Alternatively, state medical marijuana laws may be correlated with a reduction in homicide and assault rates. These findings run counter to arguments suggesting the legalization of marijuana for medical purposes poses a danger to public health in terms of exposure to violent crime and property crimes.

News Stories:
More Pot, Less Crime: Medical Marijuana States See Drops in Assaults and Homicides
Reason March 27, 2014

Exploring the Ecological Association Between Crime and Medical Marijuana Dispensaries UCLA July 2012
Consistent with previous work, there were no observed cross-sectional associations between the density of medical marijuana dispensaries and either violent or property crime rates in this study.

News Stories:
Study: Medical Cannabis Dispensaries Not Associated With Neighborhood Crime NORML Blog June 7, 2012

Regulating Medical Marijuana: An Overview with Preliminary Evidence of Their Impact on Crime
Rand Corporation, September 2011
This study showed that when hundreds of Los Angeles medical marijuana dispensaries were closed in 2010, crime rates rose in surrounding neighborhoods.

News Stories:
RAND Study: Crime in surrounding area increased after closure of LA medical marijuana dispensaries Washington Post September 21, 2011

Study: Medical pot dispensaries don’t boost local crime Oakland Tribune 9/20/2011

Note: This study was rescinded by RAND under pressure from the LA City Attorney’s office.
See: SF Cops Join LA’s Finest In Disputing RAND Study’s Findings That Marijuana Clubs Don’t Cause Crime SF Weekly Sep. 21 2011

Also see:

SF’s Medical Marijuana Program Is a Boring Success SF Weekly Feb. 13, 2014
The city has 24 weed storefronts in business, according to the Department of Public Health. And these 24 dispensaries only generated 10 citizen complaints last year. Most of them — such as a police investigation into a cannabis brownie — were total nonsense.

Medical cannabis advocate, local police, say Corte Madera dispensary hasn’t had crime issues Marinscope Newspapers April 11, 2012
Twin Cities Police Authority Sgt. Paul Barrolaza told Marinscope Newspapers the department hasn’t had any “real calls for service” at the dispensary aside from security-system alarm calls. “We really haven’t had any issues with them at all. They’ve been doing what the town has asked of them and they have been cooperating with us.”

Uncle Sam gets serious Sacramento News & Review January 19, 2012
In 2006, a year before medical-cannabis dispensary Sacramento Holistic Healing Center opened its doors at 2014 10th Street, the number of crimes reported within 1,000 feet of the business was 146. In 2010, the same city of Sacramento database shows that reported crimes—burglaries, robberies, assaults, drug busts, car thefts, etc.—within the same distance of the pot club had dropped to 32.

Study: SF Bars, Liquor Stores and Restaurants More Dangerous than Marijuana
SF Weekly Sep. 30, 2011
Quick! Pick your crime magnet: The stretch of central Market Street in front of Zuni’s famous chicken, or the alleyway near cannabis dispensary Shambhala Healing Center in the Mission District? Near Shambhala where there were only 28 reported crimes so far this month compared to 39 by Zuni, according to SFPD’s CrimeMaps.