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Researchers find medical marijuana dispensaries lower incidents of crime

On the heels of a court ruling that shut down medical marijuana dispensaries in the state of Michigan, a new study by the RAND Corporation finds that crime actually goes up when such facilities are closed down.

When medical marijuana dispensaries close, crime rises in the surrounding neighborhood when compared to areas where dispensaries are allowed to remain open, according to a new RAND Corporation study. The findings challenge the common wisdom that marijuana dispensaries promote criminal activity.

Studying crime both before and after a large number of dispensaries were shut down in Los Angeles, researchers found that incidents such as break-ins rose in the neighborhoods of closed dispensaries relative to dispensaries allowed to remain open, at least in the short term.

In the blocks with the closed dispensaries, the study observed crime up to 60 percent greater than comparable blocks with open dispensaries, but the effects were not apparent across a wider area.

“If medical marijuana dispensaries are causing crime, then there should be a drop in crime when they close,” said Mireille Jacobson, the study’s lead author and a senior economist at RAND, a nonprofit research organization. “Individual dispensaries may attract crime or create a neighborhood nuisance, but we found no evidence that medical marijuana dispensaries in general cause crime to rise.”

The study found a direct correlation between crime rates and distance from a dispensary, noting “60 percent more reports of crime within three blocks of a closed dispensary relative to the same distance around an open dispensary. The effect diminished with distance: within six blocks of a closed dispensary crime increased by 25 percent and by 10 blocks there was no perceptible change in crime.”

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