Study Finds Medical Marijuana Dispensaries Deter Crime

'We find a significant relative increase in crime around closed dispensaries,' researchers conclude

medical marijuana dispensaries
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The forced closure of medical marijuana dispensaries 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 dispensary closures on crime rates in the city of Los Angeles. Investigators analyzed crime data in the days immediately prior to and then immediately after the city ordered several hundred operators to be closed.


Researchers identified 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.”

“Open dispensaries provide over $30,000 per year in social benefit in terms of larcenies prevented,” authors concluded.

From the study:

Jurisdictions that sanction medical or, more recently, recreational marijuana use often allow retail sales at dispensaries. Dispensaries are controversial as many believe they contribute to local crime. To assess this claim, we analyze the short-term mass closing of hundreds of medical marijuana dispensaries in Los Angeles. 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. We find a similar pattern of results for temporary restaurant closures due to health code violations. A likely common mechanism is that “eyes upon the street” deter some types of crime.

The findings are consistent with those of prior studies determining that dispensary operations are not associated with ‘spillover effects’ in local communities, such as increased teen marijuana use or an uptick in property crimes.


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