A new study by the Rand Corporation, which is not known for being pro-marijuana, found that crime actually goes up significantly in surrounding areas when local medical marijuana dispensaries are forced to close. From the Rand study:
As part of the case study, we use Los Angeles’s experience ordering the close of hundreds of dispensaries to test the commonly held belief that medical marijuana dispensaries increase local crime. Contrary to conventional wisdom, press accounts, and some statements by law enforcement, our analysis suggests that the closing of the medical marijuana dispensaries is associated with an increase—rather than the expected decrease—in local crime in a short-term ten-day period. Overall crime increased almost 60 percent in the blocks surrounding closed clinics in the ten days following their closing. We offer a variety of plausible hypotheses to explain this finding. Further research is necessary to determine whether the effect is truly the result of marijuana dispensaries preventing crime in the local neighborhood. Although the current study cannot offer a definitive answer as to why crime increased around closed dispensaries, it should give jurisdictions reason to question the commonly held view that dispensaries attract and even cause crime in their neighborhoods.
The conventional wisdom that medical marijuana dispensaries cause or increase crime is idiotic. That should have been clear to anyone with a basic understanding of economics.
Nothing about marijuana itself makes people want to commit crimes. The only reason marijuana is associated with crime is because the prohibition against marijuana criminalizes the black market that arises to supply it and undermines incentives to report other crimes to police.
Since it is illegal to sell, dealers can become tempting victims for robbers, because robbers know dealers can’t go to the police for help. This same dynamic could encourage dealers to get illegal weapons for self protection or use violence to settle disputes, since prohibition prevents them from being able to deal with their grievance using the court system. These criminal problems caused solely by prohibition go away when law abiding businesses are allowed to sell marijuana legally.
The reality is that legal medical marijuana dispensaries have all the same incentives as any other legal business to work hard to reduce crime in their communities. The study suggests that is what the dispensaries have been doing. Like any legal business, they don’t want their store or employees to be robbed. They also risk losing costumers if their area has the reputation for being “unsafe.” The dispensaries benefit from putting in security systems and quickly alerting the police to stop any nearby violent crime.