Why Cannabis Retailers Are Good Neighbors
Next time you walk past your friendly neighborhood cannabis retail store, step inside and thank the folks working inside for keeping the crime rate down. For years, opponents of marijuana legalization have warned cannabis shops would attract a bad element. But studies show the opposite is true. Attorney General Jeff Sessions claimed in 2017 that “we’re seeing real violence around that [marijuana legalization]. Experts are telling me there’s more violence around marijuana than one would think and there’s big money involved.” But research demonstrates that states that regulate and license the production and distribution of cannabis have experienced a drop in violent crime following legalization.
Legalized Marijuana = Decreased Crime Rate
A 2014 study published by researchers at the University of Texas revealed that the enactment of “medical marijuana laws precedes a reduction in homicide and assault. In sum, these findings run counter to arguments suggesting the legalization of marijuana … poses a danger to public health in terms of exposure to violent crime and property crimes.” Robert Morris, Director for Crime and Justice studies at UT, analyzed data supplied from the FBI and found that marijuana legislation “is not predictive of higher crime rates and may be related to reductions in rates of homicide and assault. … Given the relationship between alcohol and violent crime, it may turn out that substituting marijuana for alcohol leads to minor reductions in violent crimes.”
Studies Show Dispensaries Reduce Neighborhood Crime
Another study published by researchers at UCLA reported that the growth of cannabis outlets in urban areas “was not associated with violent crime or property crime rates.” The researchers suggested that medical marijuana dispensaries may reduce neighborhood crime because of the security precautions taken by business owners. According to yet another study published in the Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, adult use marijuana laws are associated with lower levels of property crimes and violent criminal activity. The data revealed thefts, property crimes, and rapes declined after marijuana regulation. Authors attributed the reduction in crime to less alcohol consumption and the reallocation of police resources, among other factors. “The concern that legalizing cannabis for recreational purposes may increase crime occupies a prominent position in the public debate about drugs. Our analysis suggests that such a concern is not justified,” the researchers concluded. The study was conducted by researchers from the University of Bologna, who evaluated the connection between the cannabis regulations and crime rates in counties along the Washington-Oregon border. The study shows crime rates decreased dramatically in counties in Washington, where adult marijuana use was legalized in 2012, compared to counties in Oregon, which didn’t vote to legalize until 2014. The study suggests that cannabis legalization reduced consumption of other drugs. It also reduces the instances of binge drinking and alcohol consumption in general. In 2017, a report titled “Joint Culpability: The Effects of Medical Marijuana Laws on Crime,” concluded: “We do not find evidence that medical marijuana laws consistently affect violent and property crime. … Our results suggest that liberalization of marijuana laws is unlikely to result in the substantial social cost that some politicians clearly fear.” In the state of Washington, which legalized adult recreational consumption in 2012, violent crime fell 10 percent. In Seattle, overall crime numbers in February 2017 were the lowest in five years. Rates of violent crime and property crime fell in the city of Denver following legalization. Crime rates have similarly declined in Portland, according to a recent CATO think-tank policy report. “The absence of significant adverse consequences is especially striking given the sometimes dire predictions made by legalization opponents,” according to CATO’s researchers. Some misguided local jurisdictions have actually shut down cannabis retail outlets, citing potential criminal danger. But the forced closure is associated with an uptick in crime, according to data published in the Journal of Urban Economics. University of Southern California researchers assessed the impact of medical dispensary closures on crime rates in the city of Los Angeles. The data showed an immediate increase in criminal activity – particularly property crime, larceny, and auto break ins – in the areas where dispensary operations were forced to close as compared to crime rates in those neighborhoods where marijuana retailers remained open for business. “[W]e find no evidence that closures decreased crime,” they reported. “Instead, we find a significant relative increase in crime around closed dispensaries.” In fact, cannabis outlets provide more than $30,000 per year in social benefit in terms of larcenies prevented, the study’s authors concluded. “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 common mechanism is that ‘eyes upon the street’ deter some types of crime.”