Jeff Sessions says there is a “real violence around” cannabis, study proves him wrong
Study Says Tobacco And Alcohol Shops Are Prone To More Crime Than Dispensaries
A new study looking at 2014 crime data in South Los Angeles revealed that the presence of cannabis dispensaries is prone to less crime compared to alcohol and tobacco shops, contrary to what prohibitionists especially Jeff Sessions and his ilk, are saying.
According to Sessions, legalizing cannabis will increase crime despite the lack of evidence. “I believe it’s an unhealthy practice, and current levels of THC in marijuana are very high compared to what they were a few years ago, and we’re seeing real violence around that,” Sessions said. “Experts are telling me there’s more violence around marijuana than one would think and there’s big money involved.” There are currently no studies
Four universities in California and Kansas conducted the research, which was funded partly by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “At 100 feet, tobacco shops and off-sale alcohol outlets – but not MMD’s [medical marijuana dispensaries] – experience significantly higher property and violent crime rates than grocery/convenience stores,” says the study.
“Our data suggest tobacco shops may constitute nuisance properties associated with dangerous neighborhood conditions for crime and violence in South LA, and perhaps similar low-income urban communities of color.” The study is set to be published in March 2018’s issue of the journal Preventive Medicine.
The study’s authors say that several factors are behind this, such as:
“(1) presence of visible property safeguards (e.g., security cameras), which may lower dispensary-related violence, (2) visual anonymity of many MMDs to passers-by including potential offenders, and (3) MMDs’ tendency to close or relocate quickly—e.g., by June 2015, few MMDs operated at their 2014 locations.”
They also looked at data from convenience and grocery stores selling booze and cigarettes, and found that these establishments had much lower crime rates in close proximity to their outlets compared to shops that only sell alcohol or shops that only sell tobacco. The authors suggest that crime rates near cannabis dispensaries can be brought down even further if adults were able to purchase their medicine from regular retail outlets instead of having to go to cannabis-only dispensaries, most of which have no choice but to operate on a cash basis only because cannabis remains to be a Schedule 1 drug, and its federal status prevents banks from doing business with them.
In fact, another study released last July and published in the Journal of Urban Economics found that when cannabis dispensaries shut down, this leads to “an immediate increase in crime.” The study’s authors say that the increase in crime was because there are less “eyes upon the street”, attributed by less foot traffic and people in the area when the establishments were shut down, making the locations attractive to criminals who can commit crimes without getting noticed.
The study, conducted by researchers from the University of California in Irvine, looked at dispensaries in Los Angeles for the study. “We found a roughly 12% relative increase in crime,” said Mireille Jacobson, a co-author of the study. The 439 LA dispensaries they looked at were forced to shut down once the city government mandated new regulations took effect. In an interview, Jacobson said that the study’s findings contract the popular belief that dispensaries contribute crime. She also finds the results relevant considering that California will have legalized recreational cannabis by 2018. “I think jurisdictions are just going to have to get over the fear of having dispensaries,” she says. “They’re here and we’re going to have to deal with them.”
These finding support those that were conducted by the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), a pro-legalization advocacy group. “We’re actually finding they’re having a positive effect by taking up retail and industrial space that would otherwise remain vacant and become a magnet for crime,” says MPP’s Mason Tvert. “These are also businesses with a significant level of security that can deter criminals from the whole area.”
According to Tom Angell of the Marijuana Majority, “It’s not like marijuana wasn’t already being sold in these neighborhoods,” adding that security guards combined with more foot traffic in an area help deter crime around cannabis dispensaries. “It was being sold illegally on the street by gang members, and the cities aren’t getting any tax revenue from it.”
Another 2011 UCLA study analyzing Sacramento dispensaries found that cannabis shops in a neighborhood don’t result in an increase in crime rates. “The density of medical marijuana dispensaries was not associated with violent or property crime rates,” says the study.