RAND Pulls LA Marijuana Dispensary Crime Study, Pending Review

October 11, 2011

Phillip Smith, Drug War Chronicle

In the face of withering criticism from local law enforcement officials, the RAND Corporation has removed from its web site, at least temporarily pending review, a September study that found that crime increased when medical marijuana dispensaries closed down. That study concluded that there is "no evidence that medical marijuana dispensaries in general cause crime to rise."

The study was subject to immediate attack from local officials, particularly from avowed medical marijuana foe LA County District Attorney Carmen Trutanich and from the LA city attorney's office. Trutanich called the study's results "highly suspect and unreliable" and claimed they were based on "faulty assumptions, conjecture, conjecture, irrelevant data, untested measurements and incomplete results."

Special Assistant City Attorney Jane Usher and Assistant City Attorney Asha Greenberg, whose office argued in court that dispensaries bred crime when successfully seeking to limit their numbers, added to the pressure on RAND. "Until you publicly retract your work, we expect the RAND publication to be referenced nationwide, at incalculable avoidable harm to public health and safety," they hyperbolically wrote.

The RAND study examined crime reports for 10 days before and 10 days after the city ordered more than 70% of the city's 638 dispensaries to close in June 2010. The researchers analyzed crime reports in neighborhoods where dispensaries had closed and compared them to neighborhoods where dispensaries stayed open.

RAND bent to the pressure this week. "We took a fresh look at the study based in part upon questions raised by some folks following publication, RAND spokesman Warren Robak told Toke of the Town. "The LA City Attorney's Office has been the organization most vocal in its criticism of the study."

The study has been taken down for review, but not retracted, Robak clarified. "I don't have an estimate of when the review will be complete and the study will reappear," he said.

Americans for Safe Access, the nation's largest medical marijuana advocacy group, decried the intrusion of politics into the realm of science and urged RAND to stand its ground. "When will objective science on medical marijuana be honestly and thoroughly considered without the intrusion and constraints of politics?" the group asked. "As a decades-old institution, RAND should stand by its research and not buckle to political pressure."

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