Since the dream of cannabis legalization has become a reality in several parts of the country, the cannabis industry has proven to be a lucrative cash cow. Across the United States, the cannabis industry has grown into a $44 billion powerhouse. With upwards of 40% of year-over-year growth, the need for more retail stores to move products only becomes greater. For many people in these communities where dispensaries are setting up shop, there’s been a concern surrounding the impact on public safety these establishments would have.
MYTH 1: Crime will increase
The belief that these establishments would spark an uptick in crime is understandable. It’s a new business with a grey history of illicit activities and unsavory individuals. Some people also believe cannabis to truly be a dangerous substance that leads to degenerative behavior. While it’s understandable for people to have these ideas or concerns regarding the issue, it doesn’t make it necessarily true or valid.
In a report compiled by Leafly, a compilation of several studies reported positive results for the communities hosting cannabis dispensaries. One myth the report dispelled was the idea that the cash-holding nature of state programs would create a bountiful target for thieves, robbers, and other criminals. This was proven to be incorrect as a study of hundreds of Los Angeles dispensaries that had their doors closed in 2010 showed that “contrary to conventional wisdom, we find no evidence that closures decreased crime.” In fact, there was “a significant relative increase in crime around closed dispensaries,” as much as 24% in some places. Another study from California counties found “a negative and significant relationship between dispensary allowances and property crime rates, although event studies indicate these effects may be a result of pre-existing trends.” This study would conclude that the density of medical marijuana dispensaries may not be associated with crime rates or that other factors, such as measures dispensaries take to reduce crime (i.e., doormen, video cameras), may increase guardianship such that it deters.
MYTH 2: Increase in teen cannabis use and diversion to minors
An independent study conducted out of California showed that cannabis use among seventh-grade students dropped 47% from 2013 to 2017. Hundreds of medical cannabis dispensaries operated during that period. A survey conducted by State health officials in Colorado and Oregon in 2018 showed little impact on the rates of cannabis use since licensed adult-use stores opened. Colorado’s adult-use retail stores have been open since January 2014. Oregon’s dispensaries began selling adult-use products in October 2015.
While correlation does not equate causation, there is no doubt that legally operated cannabis retail dispensaries decrease the rate at which minors overall come into contact with cannabis. Given strict security measures and immense regulatory oversight, there is truly no way for minors to come into contact with the product.
MYTH 3: The addition of dispensaries decreases property values
One final misconception is that the addition of dispensaries would drive down property values within the surrounding areas. While the data on this point is thin, the results compiled tell a positive story. At the city level, “legalizing retail marijuana on average increases housing values by approximately 6%” compared to cities that prohibit retail cannabis stores. On top of that, Single-family residences close to a retail conversion (within 0.1 miles) “increased in value by approximately 8.4% relative to houses that are located slightly farther from a conversion (between 0.1 miles and 0.25 miles) in 2014 compared to the previous year”
All in all, the belief that the overall impacts of a dispensary in relation to crime and public safety are negative is provably unfounded. The results of the studies featured in this report showed an overall positive impact on the communities in the realm of crime rates, minor access and use, and property values if any impact at all. So, if you want to help make a difference in your town and fight crime, consider opening a dispensary!
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As a fourth year journalism student at the University of Southern California, Jacob is passionate about providing the most up-to-date stories. Jacob follows Illinois news, cannabis advertising, cannabis in sports and first-time cannabis consumers. With experience in product manufacturing and customer relations, Jacob adds immense value to the team. Currently, Jacob resides in Chicago and has experience working with the Chicago White Sox.