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Study Finds Link in Marijuana Shops to Increased Property Crime
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Summary: While marijuana outlets do not cause the same level of crimes from establishments with alcohol, there is a link to higher property crime in adjacent areas.

A three-year study conducted in Denver has linked higher levels property crime to the proximity of legal marijuana shops. The research found that higher property crime does not necessarily occur in the immediate areas next to marijuana stores but in adjacent areas. Researchers determined that 84 more property crimes happen per year in the neighborhoods near marijuana shops compared to neighborhoods not close to shops.


Lead author of the study published in the Journal of Primary Prevention and professor of social work at The Ohio State University, Bridget Freisthler, states that their results show a cost to legal marijuana sales. She said, “If you’re looking strictly from a public health standpoint, there is reason to be somewhat concerned about having a marijuana outlet near your home.”

The results show that marijuana shops are comparable to bars, liquor stores and restaurants that serve alcohol in levels of property crime. Places that sell alcohol lead to more violent crime than marijuana shops. Looking at the numbers, marijuana shops contributed to 1.579 property crimes in Denver. Alcohol shops were linked to 1,521 property crimes. The big difference comes in violent crimes. Marijuana shops contributed to 93 while alcohol shops contributed to 372.

The data was gathered by examining crime statistics in Denver for 481 Census block groups over a period of 34 months. When the study began in 2013, marijuana was only available for medical purposes. By the next year, marijuana was available to the general public. This provided an additional opportunity for the researchers to examine any differences in recreational sales to medical.

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With the data from the Denver Police Department, they looked at three kinds of crime – violent crime, property crime, and marijuana shop specific crime. They found no difference in crime from recreational marijuana sales to medical sales. Freisthler said, “It is the number and density of outlets that is important, not whether they are medical or recreational.”

A factor in this finding is that when recreational marijuana was first allowed, it could only be sold by those outlets that were originally selling it for medical purposes. This made it so the number of shops did not change much, keeping the areas of crime to the same.  Violent crime was not shown to be a significant increase as a result of marijuana sales.

Freisthler and her team did another study last year in the Long Beach, CA area. The results of that study were similar to the Denver study in that property crime did not increase directly around the marijuana shops but did in adjacent areas. Some of this is likely due to the fact that marijuana dispensaries have security guards and cameras to help monitor the area. A difference in the studies was that the CA one found a link to violent crime as well.

Freisthler added, “The areas we examined in our study were relatively small (about a third of a square mile), so a guard could conceivably be keeping criminals away from the neighborhood directly surrounding the outlets.”

The findings of the study show that there are reasons to be cautious of legalizing marijuana. She said, “There are definitely negative public health consequences, including increased crime. There may be economic benefits in terms of more tax revenue and money spent in neighborhoods. Citizens have to decide how they want to measure the benefits and costs.”

The other members of the study include Andrew Gaidus, William Ponicki and Paul Gruenewald of the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation and Christina Tam of UCLA. It was supported by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism and the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Are you surprised by the study’s findings? Tell us in the comments below.

To learn more the legalization of marijuana read these articles:




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