UPDATE October 11 - The RAND Corporation bowed to politcal pressure for the LA City Attorney's Office and removed this study "until the review is complete." Ironically, the RAND Corporation's wen site says that "RAND is widely respected for operating independent of political and commercial pressures." Apparently not in every case!
The RAND Corporation, an influential public policy think tank, issued a report today debunking the commonly-held misperception that medical cannabis dispensing centers (MCDCs) attract crime to the neighborhoods in which they are located. In what the authors call “the first systematic analysis of the link between medical marijuana dispensaries and crime,” the right-leaning RAND Corporation found no evidence that hundreds of MCDCs in Los Angeles caused an increase in crime. The report echoes research conducted by Americans for Safe Access (ASA) and the experience in communities nationwide. Policy makers should see this groundbreaking report as a green light to adopt sensible regulations to protect legal patients and communities – while preserving safe access to medicine.
The RAND Corporation report surveyed crime statistics around six hundred MCDCs in Los Angeles County, but failed to find any correlation between the facilities and an increase in crime. In fact, the report showed an increase in crime in some communities only after MCDCs closed. This would not be a surprise for Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck, who told Los Angeles City Council Members in 2010 that "banks are more likely to get robbed than medical marijuana dispensaries," and the claim that MCDCs attract crime "doesn't really bear out."
The misperception that MCDCs attract crime has serious consequences for patients. In California, where medical cannabis has been legal for fifteen years, lawmakers recently voted to bar legal MCDCs from locating within six hundred feet of residential uses or zones - on top of an existing statute that bars the facilities from being the same distance from schools. The rationale? Public safety. Onerous regulations in Colorado, Arizona, New Jersey, and other states stem from the same bias. The RAND Corporation report is a welcome answer to this pervasive misconception.
Medical cannabis is legal in sixteen sates and the District of Columbia, but stigma and disinformation too often stymie regulations that could make the good intentions of voters and lawmakers a reality for patients. Policy makers should listen to what the RAND Corporation has to say today about crime and MCDCs, and to what ASA has been saying about the necessity of well-regulated community-based access to medical cannabis since 2002. We must put aside the groundless assertion that MCDCs attract crime, and move quickly to fully implement state medical cannabis laws.
Download a copy of the RAND Corporation report, “Regulating Medical Marijuana Dispensaries: An Overview with a Case Study of Los Angeles Preliminary Evidence of Their Impact on Crime.”
Download a copy of ASA’s report, “Medical Cannabis Dispensing Collectives and Local Regulation.”