California Medical Marijuana: Crime Reducer?

One of the primary reasons federal prosecutors and law enforcement officials have continued to press forward with this failed “War on Drugs,” particularly with regard to marijuana, is the notion that it perpetuates crime.
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Our Los Angeles marijuana lawyers know this is part of what spurred the aggressive federal crackdown on dispensaries statewide. In fact, federal prosecutors said that was a primary motivator.

But now, many medical marijuana advocates, particularly those in Northern California, are propagating a new theory, which is that medical marijuana dispensaries may actually serve to reduce crime in some neighborhoods.

One example cropped up in the Lower Haight district of San Francisco. It was an area plagued with crime, a plethora of illegal drugs, graffiti and loitering. Then the Vapor Room moved in. The area’s Board of Supervisors are now reporting that a number of those issues have actually gotten better since the Vapor Room became a mainstay.

There are numerous reasons for this. For one thing, the dispensary had security. The owners also worked closely with other area businesses to form a close network of watchful businesses. Plus, patients were law-abiding, and would report any suspicious activity either to the security at the dispensary or directly to police.

The criminals seemed to catch on quite quickly, and have been substantially deterred since the Vapor Room moved in.

Similar stories across the state abound.

Sadly, many of these stories – including that of the Vapor Room – doesn’t have a happy ending. Like hundreds of other dispensaries, the Vapor Room was shuttered by federal authorities as part of the massive crackdown. After putting up a good fight, the dispensary shut down for good last summer.

Despite evidence to the contrary, U.S. attorneys continue to spread misinformation as to the level of crime surrounding medical marijuana dispensaries. For example, U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag last year detailed an armed robbery near a preschool and another case in which a cultivator killed one of his workers.

But scientific research suggests this is more the exception than the norm.

At UCLA, researchers in 2011, funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, determined that the presence of a marijuana dispensary had no effect one way or the other on crime statistics.

Even the Los Angeles Police Department, which conducted its own research, hasn’t found anything to suggest that more dispensaries means more crime. Chief Charlie Beck commissioned an internal report in 2009. Among 800 marijuana dispensaries throughout the city, only 47 were victims of robberies. That may sound a bit high, but consider that the city has 350 banks – 71 of which were robbed that year.

Perhaps we should do away with banks as well?

When new medical marijuana dispensaries crop up, it’s not uncommon for neighbors to have preconceived notions about how crime will increase. A lot of it can be traced back to the kind of misrepresentations that continue to be perpetuated by federal authorities with a clear agenda and stake in this fight.

The truth is, medical marijuana facilities make excellent neighbors. Not only do they provide extra security, they also bring more foot traffic – which is good for all area businesses.

It’s time for our national authorities to stop spreading unfounded fear of violence and start having an honest conversation about the benefits of medical marijuana facilities.

The Los Angeles CANNABIS LAW Group represents growers, dispensaries, collectives, patients and those facing marijuana charges. Call us at 714-937-2050.

Additional Resources:
Medical Marijuana Dispensaries Reduce Crime, Advocates Argue, April 19, 2013, By Aaron Sankin, Huffington Post
More Blog Entries:
Obama Drug Budget: Slight Increase in Treatment, Decrease in Enforcement, April 12, 2013, Los Angeles Marijuana Lawyer Blog