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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.

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 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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