Researchers at UCLA recently set out to prove that an increase in medical marijuana dispensaries directly correlates to an increase in crime in surrounding communities. The hypothesis was proposed based on the fact that many hash clubs in Europe have become “breeding grounds” for criminal activity, so researchers wanted to see if Californian dispensaries are having the same effect.
According to some criminologists, dispensaries make prime targets for thieves for a number of reasons:
- They store large amounts of marijuana (a product that is profitable on the black market)
- They typically operate with large amounts of cash on hand
- Some medical marijuana patients with debilitating conditions are easy prey for attackers
With the above hypothesis in place, researchers began the study by focusing on Sacramento, a city that has been heavily populated with dispensaries for more than half a decade and previously had no local regulatory policies until 2010. The first step in the study was mapping the city, pinpointing 40 specific dispensaries, and then determining whether these clinics were already associated with certain crime factors like high poverty levels, vacant housing, single-parent homes, gang activity, and easy freeway access. After this they analyzed crime data from 2009 to determine whether there was a relationship between robberies and the establishment of medical marijuana dispensaries.
In the end, the statistical model researchers generated indicated that certain factors like unemployment, large numbers of young adults, and commercial zoning all could be linked to higher crime rates, but that no verifiable correlation could be shown between the presence of medical marijuana clinics and higher crime rates.
Ultimately, even if the study were able to prove that dispensaries are prime targets for criminals, and that they are often robbed, advocates for medical marijuana could easily argue that the high criminal demand for cannabis is directly related to the fact that it is illegal. The prohibition of marijuana has caused the value to become exuberantly high, and has made dispensaries like those in California a rare sight in a country where a pound of cannabis can sell for up to $5000.
In conclusion, it is not fair to blame the higher crime rates on medical marijuana and its patients, as prohibition is actually causing criminals to focus on dispensaries. It is completely illogical to say that patients should not have access to their medicine because they are increasingly becoming the victims of robberies. Saying that would be the same as saying “convenience stores, ATMs, and their customers are all harmful to the community because armed robbers often target them.”