RAND Study Finds No Link Between Medical Marijuana Dispensaries and Crime

September 20, 2011
Oakland, CA -- The RAND Corporation issued a report today dispelling the myth that there are inherent links between medial marijuana distribution centers and crime. The study on which the RAND report is based claims that crime was as much as 60 percent greater around medical marijuana dispensaries that had been shut down by the City of Los Angeles compared to those areas with open dispensaries. "[W]e found no evidence that medical marijuana dispensaries in general cause crime to rise," said Mireille Jacobson, the study’s lead author and a senior economist at RAND.

RAND's study, which challenges the common wisdom that medical marijuana dispensaries promote criminal activity, affirms the findings of patient advocates. "We have reached the same conclusions as RAND using a qualitative study of public officials with firsthand experience of how dispensaries reduce crime in their neighborhoods," said Steph Sherer, Executive Director of Americans for Safe Access (ASA), the country's leading medical marijuana advocacy group. "Unfortunately, law enforcement has largely ignored or refuted these findings."

According to a statement from RAND, the study "examined crime reports for the 10 days prior to and the 10 days following June 7, 2010, when the city of Los Angeles ordered more than 70 percent of the city’s 638 medical marijuana dispensaries to close." Researchers analyzed crime reports within a few blocks around dispensaries that closed and compared that to crime reports for neighborhoods where dispensaries remained open. In total, RAND said that "researchers examined 21 days of crime reports for 600 dispensaries in Los Angeles County -- 170 dispensaries remained open while 430 were ordered to close."

RAND calls its study "the first systematic analysis of the link between medical marijuana dispensaries and crime," however Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck conducted his own study in 2010 comparing the levels of crime at the city's banks with its medical marijuana dispensaries. Chief Beck found that 71 robberies had occurred at the more than 350 banks in the city, compared to 47 robberies at the more than 500 medical marijuana facilities. At the time, Beck observed that, "banks are more likely to get robbed than medical marijuana dispensaries," and the claim that dispensaries attract crime "doesn't really bear out."

There are at least 60 localities in California and many more around the country that regulate the distribution of medical marijuana. "Dispensary regulations bring greater oversight and less crime to local communities," continued Sherer. "We're hopeful that an objective study like RAND's will help dispel the fear that our opposition is spreading across California and compel more local governments to adopt sensible regulations."

Further information:
RAND Study on Medical Marijuana Dispensaries and Crime: http://AmericansForSafeAccess.org/downloads/RAND_Study.pdf
ASA Report on Dispensary Regulations: http://AmericansForSafeAccess.org/downloads/dispensaries.pdf

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