USC Marijuana Dispensary Study Finds Closures Cause Crime Spike

USC Marijuana Dispensary Study

USC Marshall School of Business Professor Tom Y. Chang and Paul Merage School of Business Professor Mireille Jacobson recently co-authored a study in the Journal of Urban Economics that examined how closing marijuana dispensaries affects crime in surrounding areas. The study specifically examined the aftermath of a period in 2010 during which hundreds of dispensaries were shut down. The crime rates around the closed dispensaries increased dramatically. According to Chang, “When marijuana dispensaries were shut down, we found the opposite of what we were expecting … Crime actually increased in the areas that closed relative to the ones allowed to stay open.”

This study was not the first to come to this conclusion, but previous studies attributed the heightened crime rates to the fact that dispensaries had security footage and other protocols that discouraged criminal activity. Chang and Jacobson, however, also found crime increased around restaurants that shut down, despite not having had the same intense security measures. When the restaurants re-opened, the crime spike dissipated. The authors speculated that customers decrease crime rates. Chang explains that business owners and people who work at and patronize a business “have a vested interest in the neighborhood.”

“Dispensary owners who want to be licensed and legitimized are taking great pride in protecting their patients, employees and the neighborhoods they work and live in … we believe these numbers will be even stronger once dispensaries are fully licensed and legitimized like any other industry and trust they can call on the same resources like any other fully legitimized businesses such as restaurants would,” says Adam Spiker, Executive Director of the Southern California Coalition.

Though this is good news for dispensary owners, the research does not just suggest that opening dispensaries is the way to prevent crime. Chang says that, “Opening a bookstore would also decrease crime.” The study does, however, undermine the argument that more dispensaries will yield more crime.


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