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Study: After Pot Shops Closed, Crime Rose

The RAND Corp. says the claim that marijuana dispensaries are linked to crime has not been rigorously evaluated and that its study is the first systematic analysis of a possible link between the two.

The RAND Corp. today released a study that found crime rises in neighborhoods where dispensaries are shut down compared to crime rates where they're allowed to stay open, a find that challenges the belief put forward by some authorities that marijuana dispensaries promote crime.

"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," RAND said in a statement accompanying its study. "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."

The study's lead author and a senior RAND economist, Mireille Jacobson, said that if dispensaries are causing crime, "then there should be a drop in crime when they close.

"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," she said.

RAND said its study is the first systematic analysis of the claim that marijuana dispensaries are linked to crime.

RAND researchers examined crime reports for the 10 days prior to and the 10 days following June 7, 2010, when Los Angeles ordered the closure of more than 70 percent of the city's 638 medical marijuana dispensaries. One of the reasons cited for the closures was the desire to limit dispensaries because of the presumed connection to crime.

The RAND study found that crimes reported near closed dispensaries remained relatively flat while crime reports near the remaining dispensaries decreased, suggesting a relative increase in crime around closed dispensaries.

"We don't see any more crime that we can attribute to those shops," LAPD Senior Lead Officer Mike Lewis, who patrols the Studio City area, in 2010. "If they are in violation of something, we will put a stop to it, but so far it's been quiet."

However, in the LAPD North Hollywood Division's patrol area, which includes Studio City, there have been a few high-profile crimes linked to dispensaries. On April 16, LAPD officers on the roof of a dispensary in North Hollywood. In June, more alleged robbers were caught on Burbank Boulevard in North Hollywood.

The study also found about 60 percent more reports of crime within three blocks of a closed dispensary compared to an open dispensary.

Some local law enforcement officials quickly dismissed the RAND study.

Detective Robert Holcomb of the Los Angeles Police Department's Narcotics Enforcement Detail in the San Fernando Valley told the Daily News that dispensaries "are a center for crime ... Look at it from a criminal standpoint: Here is a location that you know contains narcotics, money—so what better location to rob?"

Frank Mateljan, spokesman for the City Attorney's office, added: "The study is the polar opposite of a scientific and measured response to verified data. It relies exclusively upon faulty assumptions, conjecture, irrelevant data, untested measurements and incomplete results. The conclusions are therefore highly suspect and unreliable," he told the Daily News.

In contrast, medical marijuana advocates were elated with the RAND study.

"We have reached the same conclusions as RAND...,'' said Steph Sherer, executive director of Americans for Safe Access.

—City News Service contributed to this report.

joyce hong September 27, 2011 at 07:12 PM
I agree with you Mr. Strong, It is M Larsen who has it all wrong. As he continues to bark up the wrong tree, patients kindly ask to just let them be.
Michael Larsen September 27, 2011 at 07:43 PM
Speaking of barking, here's the latest headline from the L.A. Times "Woman to Stand Trial in Slaying of Medical Marijuana Figure". Click here to read the article http://lat.ms/rrpR8K. I thought there was supposed to be a DECREASE in crime surrounding dispensaries. I guess this poor guy who was murdered for his pot and money wasn't within the 1/2 block "safety zone". Or maybe Rand got it wrong... And Ms. Hong, it's clear that as someone who is so dead set against regulation for MMDs, that you do not represent legitimate patients in the least. Your position resembles that of the rogue pot shops owners and their lawyers whose only aim is to stall regulation as long as possible in order to rake in MASSIVE PROFITS.
joyce hong September 27, 2011 at 08:56 PM
Exactly Mr. Larsen, you are the expert. You know more then the Rand corporation and the Chief of police regarding medical dispensaries. It also appears that you are confused about my position regarding regulation. I am all for sensible regulation as this has proven to reduce crime. Unfortunately the prohibitionists and dispensary owners passed an ordinance which violated patients rights. If you think that patients are willing to accept getting their medication in industrial zones, this is more evidence that you really don't have a clue.
Bud Strong September 27, 2011 at 09:04 PM
"Your pot shops are not an asset Mr. Strong. They will have to move on," sayeth the Larsen. Well....they are not mine, really. But as you rail and roar away, it must be evident that these efforts are resoundingly ineffectual. The herb is here to stay.
Michael Larsen September 27, 2011 at 11:18 PM
On this issue, yes, I am an expert. The Rand study was sloppy to the point of calling into question their motives for publishing it. Ironically, according to Rand, regulation in the form of shutting down unlicensed shops increased crime. How do you reconcile that conundrum with your "sensible regulation" talking points? Finally, there is nothing in the LA ordinance about industrial zones. I'm confident that customers will find their way quite happily to the HUNDRED city-sanctioned pot shops that will exist once the ordinance goes into effect.
Little Lebowski September 28, 2011 at 08:00 PM
OK, I'll bite. How is the Rand study sloppy, and how could they have improved their methodology?
Scott Killeen September 28, 2011 at 08:17 PM
http://www.rand.org/pubs/technical_reports/TR987.html The authors analyzed data for the ten days prior to and ten days following the June 7, 2010, closure of over 70 percent of the 638 dispensaries then in operation. Crime reports within a few blocks around closed dispensaries were compared with crime reports near those that remained open. The authors found that crime increased in the vicinity of closed dispensaries relative to the vicinity around dispensaries allowed to remain open.
Michael Larsen September 28, 2011 at 08:30 PM
This story on the Pat Morrison show does a good job of describing the problems with the "study": http://bit.ly/qMeB2A The other glaring mistake which tells me they don't full understand the issue is that they claim that "California regulations require that dispensaries ensure adequate security." There is no such regulation. In fact there are no state level regulations for the operation of dispensaries at all. Not one. Ironically, if greedy pot shop owners would not have blocked implementation of the LA Ordinance so they can continue making windfall profits, we would have a regulation ensuring proper security, among other safeguards for legitimate patients and communities.
joyce hong September 28, 2011 at 08:31 PM
Its funny how you should call into question the motives of the Rand corporation. They are about as reputable as they come. The findings also agree with statements from our chief of police. The regulation in Los Angeles has been an absolute disaster and you know this. "Despite neighborhood complaints, most medical marijuana clinics are not typically the magnets for crime that critics often portray, according to Los Angeles police Chief Charlie Beck. " http://www.dailynews.com/news/ci_14206441
joyce hong September 28, 2011 at 08:37 PM
@Michael Larsen , you claim to be an expert and are not even aware of the CA guidelines . "Security: Collectives and cooperatives should provide adequate security to ensure that patients are safe and that the surrounding homes or businesses are not negatively impacted by nuisance activity such as loitering or crime." http://ag.ca.gov/cms_attachments/press/pdfs/n1601_medicalmarijuanaguidelines.pdf
Michael Larsen September 28, 2011 at 08:45 PM
@Joyce Hong, I don't blame you for not understanding the difference between a regulation and a "guideline". Apparently the folks at Rand don't either. There is no force of law behind a guideline. It's about a legitimate as a "recommendation".
Michael Larsen September 28, 2011 at 08:48 PM
From this article: "He also acknowledged that banks report all their robberies to authorities, while some medical marijuana facilities may not. "This is just a snapshot, a statistic. It doesn't reflect quality of life issues, it doesn't reflect the things the public complains about (regarding) medical marijuana locations," Beck said."
joyce hong September 28, 2011 at 09:40 PM
@Michael Larsen, Thanks for providing the Pat Morrison Link. Did you notice how Jane usher contradicts herself by first saying "20 to 30 shops out of 429 remained open and violated the ordinance" and then later claims that none of the dispensaries did not close. The city attorneys can not have it both ways. It is very obvious that the City attorney has an agenda and that is to close medical dispensaries and will throw the Rand corporation under the bus while doing so.
Little Lebowski September 28, 2011 at 10:08 PM
Thanks for the link, although this is pretty weak tea. One "he said/she said" exchange between Jane Usher in the City Attorney's Office and Mireille Jacobson from RAND, and the entire study is invalidated? It's pretty clear from the background information on p5 of the report that RAND does in fact understand the regulatory framework in California. The "glaring mistake" obviously refers to the guidelines that the AG was asked to established pursuant to SB 420. If the RAND study is so weak, surely its opponents can come up with some stronger examples than these.
Michael Larsen September 28, 2011 at 10:39 PM
The study essentialy invalidates itself on page 12: "Because we are focusing on such a small time frame window around the city's closure deadline...we cannot make any claims about the long-term changes associated with dispensary closures" The true test will come when the LA ordinance is finally put into effect and actual regulation comes to the 100 dispensaries that will be operating under that regulation. Then Rand can do an actual study based on facts on the ground and not L.A. Weekly blog stories. I hope that we will see a decrease in crime around the then legitimate and regulated pot shops.
Little Lebowski September 28, 2011 at 11:09 PM
Yes, RAND is quite open about the fact that longer-term study is needed to produce more definitive results. That's why the report is subtitled "An Overview with Preliminary Evidence of Their Impact on Crime". So why are we devoting so much energy toward trashing RAND, their methodology, and motives? I too am looking forward to the actual ordinance being put into full effect, so we can analyze its effectiveness and <ahem> weed out those who are violating the law.
Michael Larsen September 28, 2011 at 11:32 PM
Agreed!
Mark September 29, 2011 at 12:08 AM
However small the Rand study's window was, it is still relevant data. I have not heard of any statistics that show clinics increase crime in a neighborhood. It seems to me that clinics allow the folks who need the medication to get it safely and regularly without having to risk arrest while meeting a true drug dealer in a parking lot. I'm proud of this progressive policy in LA and Eagle Rock.
Craig Clough (Editor) September 29, 2011 at 01:15 AM
What I think was most important about the Rand study is what is happening right here -- it has sparked conversations and many Los Angeles residents are now more directly addressing the issue of pot shops and their relation or non-relation to crime. Many quotes and claims about medical marijuana causing crime or reducing crime are frequently tossed around by people with agendas. The results and methods can be debated, but the Rand study is at least an attempt to put some data, science and analytical thought into this controversial issue which rarely moves beyond rhetoric.
Hunter M. Daniels September 29, 2011 at 09:00 AM
The Rand corporation is many things, unbias is not one of them. They're named after the mother of Libertarianism.
Hunter M. Daniels September 29, 2011 at 01:28 PM
The statement is not a contradiction at all. Some dispensaries cause problems because they are poorly run, this is not a trend on an aggregate level. What was that phrase about bad apples? Maybe something about a baby's bathwater? You're drawing a correlation without causation and misusing the transitive property. I'd also wager that your argument relies on slippery slope thinking, guilt by association, and emotional appeals. All of which are logical fallacies. Furthermore, anecdotal evidence from specific limited perspectives that do not account for variables, such as results bias, are antithetical to scientific research and utterly useless on an aggregate level. What's more, you're using a hypothetical, which is impossible to prove or disprove. You cannot respond to an actual survey of actual data from an actual sample set with hypothetical data from a hypothetical anecdote with no hypothetical sample set. It would exactly as logical for me tto cite a hypothetical seven-foot tall Cyclops named Bart who runs a unicorn factory surrounded by pot shops on all four sides who disagrees with your premise. Also, you speak in absolutes and since my one hypothetical business owner disagrees, I have disproven your entire argument. It's an 'undeniable fact', alright. The type of undeniable fact that you have utterly failed to support with any type of evidence or facts. In summary, your logic is far more clouded than that of the average stoner
Hunter M. Daniels September 29, 2011 at 01:38 PM
Actually Michael, if pot were legalized, it wouldn't cause the problems you are discussing. The prohibition itself is what leads to the crime. Remember that the Mob took hold in America during prohibition. All of the problems you are citing would go away if people weren't forced to come to a very limited number of locations to get their grass. In fact, ganja associated crime would all be evaporate, dare is say, in a puff of smoke. As for your pretentious and snide comments about medical marijuana, why don't you go volunteer at a cancer ward and tell the dude who can finally eat solid food for the first time in 6 months that it isn't a 'real' medication. I'll come with you. I'll match your volunteer time, hour for hour. Are you free next Thursday at, say, 4 pm?
Hunter M. Daniels September 29, 2011 at 01:42 PM
Well, if the person in question lives in an apartment building, he or she can smoke in the parking lot, or better yet, choose one of the literally dozens of non-smokable versions of the drug. I'm betting you've been drunk before Scott. And any rational statistic on alcohol related deaths far, FAR outstrips those attributed to marijuana.
Hunter M. Daniels September 29, 2011 at 01:50 PM
Yeah, because if you try to use the legal system it means that you're AUTOMATICALLY GUILTY. Gee, I thought we were in America, where you were allowed to fight charges before being punished for them. Your logic is, and I don't say this lightly or with any sense of ironic hyperbole, un-American, sir. Arthur Miller wrote a pretty good play on this subject.
Michael Larsen September 29, 2011 at 03:44 PM
Hunter, I can tell that your compassion for seriously ill Californian is deep and heartfelt. I will meet you next Thursday at 4pm, but let's go where we will be more likely to find cancer patients who actually use this powerful treatment. I'll meet you at The House of Kush on Colorado Blvd where we can stand outside and offer our assistance to any patient who might benefit. We can help them cross the street, offer sandwiches, or see if they need a little extra cash for their medicine, things like that. (We'll just have to be a little careful, because LAPD could swoop down at any point and arrest everyone involved since that particular clinic is operating illegally.) See you then!
Hunter M. Daniels September 29, 2011 at 10:39 PM
Obviously, I support out and out legalization, so I have no problem with casual stoners buying from dispensaries. And it's not because I like to smoke weed either; it's because I'm terrified of the narco-war happening in Mexico. I would link you to pertinent websites, but the content is so grotesque that it would make you vomit. The Rand Foundation estimates that 15-26% of all cartel profits in 2010 came from sales of Marijuana in America, a figure that is down from nearly 60% (of an estimated 13.8 billion) in 2006, according to a study by the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. Mexico is a very, very scary place right now and because I am a strong supporter of human rights and women's rights (Juarez, Mexico anyone?), I think that the only logical solution is to undercut the cartel's power by making a clearly harmless and nonaddictive product (dependency and addiction are not synonymous) legal. It would be good for human rights, good for women's rights, good for the state of California's bottom line, and good for civil liberties and individual rights as a whole. What's more, it would solve all of the problems you're facing in your neighborhood. By allowing only 100 shops, you further centralize any and all undesirable activities. And as for the people who need Medical Marijuana for real medical reasons, you know damn well that most of them literally cannot come to a shop. Many of them can't even walk, seeing as they're close to death and all.
Hunter M. Daniels September 29, 2011 at 10:47 PM
And as for the 'red light district' comment. Another easy solution; legalize and regulate prostitution. It is dangerous BECAUSE it is illegal, not illegal because it is dangerous. The areas of Nevada that have legal prostitution have had ZERO cases of HIV/AIDS transmission and ZERO cases of murdered women. The average age of a prostitute in NYC is estimated to be 15-years old. These girls are children, bamboozled by older men who get them addicted to drugs and then turn them out until they are dead. The current legal structure hurts women and puts the whole of the population at risk for the spread of disease. I would never, ever go to a prostitute, and I have never, ever been inside of a medical marijuana facility. This is an issue of real logic and real ethics trumping arbitrary and weak moralization based upon fear. People are being tortured and murdered in the most horrific ways possible because of our war on drugs. Women are being mutilated, tortured and thrown away like garbage because of our society's misogynistic fear of female sexuality. I sincerely believe that my stances, which you would characterize as 'pro-drug' and 'pro-prostitution' are morally superior, ethically viable and fiscally responsible. Stop thinking emotionally.
Scott Killeen October 24, 2011 at 07:02 PM
Think again everyone! http://losangeles.cbslocal.com/2011/10/24/rand-officially-retracts-marijuana-dispensary-study-linked-to-crime/
Michael Larsen October 24, 2011 at 07:07 PM
Thanks Scott. I saw this too. At least they have the integrity to admit when they've made a mistake.
Craig Clough (Editor) October 24, 2011 at 07:29 PM
Patch also reported on the study's change in status back on Oct. 12, the days it was announced - http://patch.com/A-mMWJ

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