Pages tagged "crime"
A Los Angeles-based study issued less than a month ago by the RAND Corporation, which analyzed levels of crime around the city’s medical marijuana dispensaries, has been pulled as a result of political pressure. Warren Robak of the media relations department at RAND recently said:
We took a fresh look at the study based in part upon questions raised by some folks following publication.
One of the loudest voices to question the RAND study was staunch medical marijuana opponent, Los Angeles City Attorney Carmen Trutanich. RAND said that:
The L.A. City Attorney’s Office has been the organization most vocal in its criticism of the study.
Indeed, in media interviews the City Attorney’s Office called the report’s conclusions “highly suspect and unreliable,” claiming that they were based on “faulty assumptions, conjecture, irrelevant data, untested measurements and incomplete results.”
Evidence of the influence and pressure of “politics” over “science” is no starker than this.
On September 20, RAND issued a study that analyzed crime data from more than a year ago. 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.”
If that doesn’t seem thorough and “to-the-point” enough, RAND senior economist and lead author of the study Mireille Jacobson concluded that:
[RAND] found no evidence that medical marijuana dispensaries in general cause crime to rise.
Notably, this conclusion directly contradicted the claims of medical marijuana opponents such as Trutanich.
However, this is not the first time politics has trumped science with regard to medical marijuana. There has been a long history of this in the United States. One of the more recent examples occurred only a few months ago when the National Cancer Institute (NCI) revised its website on medical cannabis after being pressured by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), a federal agency which is responsible for obstructing meaningful research into medical marijuana. After adding cannabis to the list of Complementary Alternative Medicines (CAM) and recognizing the plant’s therapeutic qualities, NCI was urged to revise its statements. As a result, references to research indicating that cannabis may be helpful in subduing cancer growth were removed.
Although RAND called its study “the first systematic analysis of the link between medical marijuana dispensaries and crime,” Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck previously conducted his own study a year earlier. Chief Beck compared the levels of crime at the city’s banks with those around its medical marijuana dispensaries. 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. Beck at the time concluded that, “banks are more likely to get robbed than medical marijuana dispensaries,” and that the prevalent law enforcement claim of dispensaries inherently attracting crime “doesn't really bear out.”
The RAND study also affirmed what Americans for Safe Access (ASA) had already concluded by way of qualitative research, that crime is normalized or reduced in areas near medical marijuana dispensaries. Numerous public officials interviewed by ASA stated in a report re-issued last year that by regulating dispensaries their communities were made safer.
When will objective science on medical marijuana be honestly and thoroughly considered without the intrusion and constraints of politics? As a decades-old institution, RAND should stand by its research and not buckle to political pressure.
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.”