According to a study published this month in the Annals of Regional Science, the opening of a state-regulated cannabis dispensary “has no significant impact on local crime in the average neighborhood.”
If you’re reading this, chances are you didn’t need to be told that –– but feel free to share with someone who does!
The researchers behind the study, affiliated with the University of Hawaii and Johns Hopkins University, examined data from the state of Washington, which joined Colorado in 2012 in becoming the first two states in the country to legalize recreational pot for adults.
“Many North American jurisdictions have legalized the operation of recreational marijuana dispensaries. A common concern is that dispensaries may contribute to local crime. Identifying the effect of dispensaries on crime is confounded by the spatial endogeneity of dispensary locations,” the researchers wrote in the study’s abstract.
“Washington State allocated dispensary licenses through a lottery, providing a natural experiment to estimate the causal effect of dispensaries on neighborhood-level crime. Combining lottery data with detailed geocoded crime data, we estimate that the presence of a dispensary has no significant impact on local crime in the average neighborhood. We estimate a small rise in property crime in low-income neighborhoods specifically,” they concluded.
Previous studies have arrived at the same conclusion.
One such study that was published in 2018 looked at “longitudinal data on local marijuana ordinances within California and thoroughly examining the extent to which counties that permit dispensaries experience changes in violent, property and marijuana use crimes using difference-in-difference methods.”
“We find no significant impact of dispensaries on violent crime in any of our models,” the researchers wrote in their conclusion.
“The consistency of findings regardless of inclusion or exclusion of the county-specific time trend is reassuring, but not surprising in light of the more consistent trends observed across counties in these measures.”
They added: “The results suggest no relationship between county laws that legally permit dispensaries and reported violent crime. We find a negative and significant relationship between dispensary allowances and property crime rates, although event studies indicate these effects may be a result of pre-existing trends. These results are consistent with some recent studies suggesting that dispensaries help reduce crime by reducing vacant buildings and putting more security in these areas. We also find a positive association between dispensary allowances and DUI arrests, suggesting marijuana use increases in conjunction with impaired driving in counties that adopt these ordinances, but these results are also not corroborated by an event study analysis.”
Another study, published in 2019, examined data out of Denver, Colorado, ultimately finding that the addition of a dispensary in certain neighborhoods led to a reduction in crime.
“The results imply that an additional dispensary in a neighborhood leads to a reduction of 17 crimes per month per 10,000 residents, which corresponds to roughly a 19 percent decline relative to the average crime rate over the sample period. Reductions in crime are highly localized, with no evidence of spillover benefits to adjacent neighborhoods. Analysis of detailed crime categories provides insights into the mechanisms underlying the reductions,” the researchers wrote.
“We find that the overall effect of adding a dispensary to a neighborhood of 10,000 residents is a reduction of crime of around 17 crimes per month. In this section, we further analyze and decompose the data in order to provide a better sense of the underlying mechanisms that lead to crime reduction and to compare these findings with existing theories about the effect of legalization on crime…We use a novel identification strategy to show significant crime reductions in neighborhoods that receive marijuana dispensaries. To our knowledge, our research is the first research to use exogenous variation in dispensary locations to identify local crime effects of marijuana dispensaries. We find that adding a dispensary to a neighborhood (of 10,000 residents) decreases changes in crime by 19 percent relative to the average monthly crime rate in a census tract,” they added.
Somebody ought to pass these findings along to Republicans on Capitol Hill.
Last year, GOP members of the House of Representatives unveiled its “Family Policy Agenda” that emphatically opposed marijuana legalization, contending that ending the prohibition on pot will lead to a spike in violent crime and suicide. Yes, seriously.
“Marijuana remains a federally scheduled controlled substance, but that has not stopped more and more states and localities from legalizing it under their own laws,” the agenda read.
“Congress should not legalize marijuana, while also taking steps to constrain this new industry’s ability to harm children. At the very least, Congress should direct the CDC to gather data and conduct studies on the health impacts of THC use during childhood and early adolescence with a special focus on deaths by suicide and those involved in violent crime to provide Congress and the public with further information about these dangers.”