Reasons why Dispensaries Reduce Crime Rates
A recent study published in the Journal of Regional Science and Urban Economics found that areas with the prevalence of dispensaries saw a decrease in crime in the area. They analyzed crime data from Denver between January 2013 and December 2016. Recreational cannabis sales kicked off in Colorado in 2014.
This means that the data considered a “pre-recreational” scenario and compared it with “post-legalization” scenarios and quantified whether there was an increase or decrease in crime rates. All in all, the study found that there was a 19% reduction in average crime rate over the sample period.
It’s important to note that there are numerous variables that can attribute to the reduction in crime such as socio-economic shifts due to new job opportunities, social programs, education and much more. Nevertheless, the prevalence of dispensaries is also an element that plays a role. This is what the study aimed to discover.
Of course, these are also very “localized findings” pertaining to a specific geographical location. Culture, social attitudes and so forth will also factor in the decline of crime rates in other locations. Illinois State Universit criminology professor, Ralph Weisheit believes that in Illinois, the results could be magnified.
In other words, he believes that there might be a greater reduction of crime rates in Illinois post legalization. He justifies this due to the state’s cannabis laws that place a heavy emphasis on criminal justice reforms, social equity and hiring people from “economically-impoverished neighborhoods”. All of these points are factors in reducing crime.
The Results in Denver
In Denver, where the data for the study was collected, saw the sharpest decrease in nonviolent crimes such as criminal trespassing, criminal mischief, simple assault, and public-order crimes. There was also a statistically insignificant drop in violent crimes such as aggravated assault.
As mentioned, while this might be true in a place like Denver, it might not necessarily translate to New York (for instance).
Nonetheless, the hopes of the authors of the study were to show that the old trope of “cannabis legalization leads to increased crime rates” to be false. The data is suggesting that it actually has an opposite effect, especially when there are “dispensaries” involved.
Why Dispensaries play such an important role
There are a number of reasons why Dispensaries can reduce crime rates. One of the first things we need to consider is that the “legal avenue” becomes far more attractive to most consumers. While the black market still exists, and a large portion of the market continues to buy from the street, the legal points of sale become more convenient over time.
Especially since “buying on the streets” would still constitute a crime. Consumers, eventually become far more eager to avoid Johnny Law as much as they can, and when dispensary prices compete with street prices; they eventually migrate to legal points of sales.
This, in turn, regulates the consumption dynamics and removes the black market dealer from the equation. Within this scenario, the business and the consumer is protected by the law.
It creates fewer instances of criminality or potential criminality as it becomes a “controlled environment”.
Furthermore, Dispensaries have private security (usually). The presence of an armed guard intimidates criminal activity. When there are dispensaries every few blocks, it literally means that there are “sentries” scattered all over the city.
This makes “committing a crime” more difficult as these sentries are highly likely to report a crime or intervene if possible. Additionally, dispensaries also tend to attract law enforcement to patrol the areas at a higher pace to ensure public safety. A higher police prevalence will have a direct impact on crime rates.
Does this mean that having more dispensaries in your city will reduce crime?
As mentioned, we cannot jump to the conclusion that “dispensary = less crime”. Rather, in the particular case of Denver, there has been a nominal decrease in crime with the presence of dispensaries. That’s it.
However, dispensaries will help for sure. Yet, it’s important to implement social changes, educational campaigns in tandem to truly make a change. This is something that Denver has been doing over the past years with the revenue from the cannabis industry.
Nonetheless, while the data pool still needs to grow over time, we are seeing a general trend appear with crime rates and dispensaries. While we cannot conclude “causation”, we must consider the importance of dispensaries within the dynamics.
One thing is certain however, dispensaries do not increase crime rates, and that should be more than enough justify the existence of these establishments in your neighborhoods. They might actually decrease crime rates if implemented properly.
As the industry continues to grow and more data is acquired, we will be able to form a clearer picture of the impact of marijuana dispensaries on local crime rates, however, as of now…it’s good news so far.