Cannabis Dispensaries Make Neighborhoods Safer, According to New Study

Looking for an easy way to decrease crime in your neighborhood? Open up a legal weed dispensary. 

According to new research published in the journal Regional Science and Urban Economics, the presence of a licensed cannabis dispensary in a city neighborhood is correlated to significant drops in hyperlocal crime rates. 

“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,” the study’s authors reported.

The report, “Not in My Backyard? Not So Fast. The Effect of Marijuana Legalization on Neighborhood Crime,” took data from 2013-2016 in Denver, Colorado and looked at changing crime rates during the transition from cannabis prohibition to adult-use legalization. After scrubbing police data, authors Jeffrey Brinkman and David Mok-Lamme found highly localized drops in criminal trespassing, criminal mischief, simple assault, and public disorder in areas with dispensaries.

“Our results are consistent with theories that predict that marijuana legalization will displace illicit criminal organizations and decrease crime through changes in security behaviors or substitution toward more harmful substances,” the report concluded.

The authors were quick to note that the crime reduction data was highly specific to areas where dispensaries were located, and noted that Denver on a whole saw a 1.7 percent increase in total crime during the same time frame. But if cannabis dispensaries ever become as ubiquitous as retail alcohol and tobacco outlets, the researchers are confident that the trend could expand.

“If it is the case that municipal-level changes in crime are an aggregation of neighborhood effects on crime, then our research would suggest that the legalization of legal marijuana markets would decrease crime at the municipal level.” 

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