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New Studies Track Marijuana Dispensaries’ Effect On Crime

Hannah Madans |
September 29, 2011 | 1:40 p.m. PDT

Associate News Editor
UPDATE 1:26 p.m. PDT: RAND canceled its claims about crime increasing after the city closed marijuana dispensaries and will do more research.

courtesy Creative Commons
courtesy Creative Commons
New research by Bridget Freisthler, an associate professor of social welfare at UCLA's Luskin School of Public Affairs, shows that hundreds of medical marijuana dispensaries in L.A. are clustered in better-off places and are rare in areas with higher crime rates, such as South L.A.

This contradicts some police claims that these dispensaries are responsible for an increase in crime.

Freisthler began her research this year, but says she wants to examine data over a longer period of time to get more results. This September she received a $2.7 million grant from the National Institute of Health to continue her research.

Freisthler’s studies have taken place in L.A. and Sacramento. The finding’s for the two cities were remarkably different. Freisthler found that L.A. areas with dispensaries have larger white populations, education levels and lower rates of poverty and unemployment. In Sacramento, though, it was the opposite. Unemployment and poverty rates were higher in areas with dispensaries.

Earlier this week a different study trying to find correlations between crime rates and marijuana dispensaries was released by Rand Corp. The Rand Corp. study found there to be more crime when dispensaries were eliminated.

“UCLA did not find anything different, but had  more complicated findings,” Dale Gieringer, the director of California NORML said.

Gieringer said that the difference between Sacramento and L.A. shown in Freisthler’s study is because of differing political responses of Sacramento and L.A.

Gieringer also said that it is difficult to conduct studies in this area because police rarely keep the records necessary for it. He does not, however, think any more research is needed.

“More research is not needed so much as more common sense by our public officials,” Gieringer said.

Gieringer said that crime rates are lower in areas with dispensaries and increase when they leave because “dispensaries remove marijuana from the criminal market into the arena of publicly regulated businesses, so this will naturally decrease drug-related crime.”


Reach associate news editor Hannah Madans here.


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