Closing cannabis dispensaries increases crime, according to California study

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      While NIMBYs tend to assert that cannabis dispensaries increase crime rates, a recent study is turning that notion on its head.

      By examining crime rates following the mass closure of 400 unregistered medical cannabis dispensaries in Los Angeles in 2010, researchers have shown that closing dispensaries is actually more likely to result in an increase in neighbourhood crime.

      In a study published in the July issue of the Journal of Urban Economics called "Going to pot? The impact of dispensary closures on crime", researchers from the University of California Irvine looked closely at how crime rates were affected when the city chose to close nearly two thirds of the city's pot shops.

      By comparing crime rates from the areas near the shuttered dispensaries with rates from areas where shops remained open, they were able to come to some interesting conclusions about the role that the shops played in preventing crime.

      "Contrary to popular wisdom," UC Irvine researcher Mireille Jacobson told Science Daily"we found an immediate increase in crime around dispensaries ordered to close relative to those allowed to remain open."

      When Jacobson and fellow author Tom Y. Chang examined how temporary restaurant closures affected crime rates, they found similar results: In areas where restaurants had closed, crime rates also went up, with the types of criminal activity most commonly encountered being property crime and theft from cars.

      Once restaurants reopened, crime rates normalized.

      Jacobson said the data could be explained by the impact that bystanders have on crime. 

      "The connection between restaurants and medical marijuana dispensaries is that they both contribute to the 'walkability score' of a given area," she said.

      "Areas with higher scores have more 'eyes on the street', a factor that is proven to deter some types of crime."