A new study suggests Americans who are worried about crime should live closer to cannabis dispensaries.
A study published in the September issue of the journal of Regional Science and Urban Economics looked at crime rates in neighbourhoods in Denver, Colorado, and found that neighbourhoods with a dispensary in them had lower crime rates.
This runs contrary to popular belief in the United States right now, where one in three Americans oppose legalization and say cannabis is a gateway drug and will lead to an increase in crime, according to a recent Gallup poll.
Turns out the opposite could be true.
Brick and mortar dispensaries reduce local offenses
The Regional Science and Urban Economics study examined local crime rates in Denver between 2013 through 2016, where legal cannabis sales to adults began in 2014.
Adding a single dispensary can reduce unlawful acts by 19 per cent over a given month, the study found. That means 17 fewer crimes per month per 10,000 residence, compared to the crime rates of similar neighbourhoods with similar populations.
Researchers noted a most significant drop in non-violent crime, but also tracked a decrease in crime related to more serious drugs, such as methamphetamines, cocaine and heroine.
The authors of the study suggest one reason for a reduction of non-violent misdemeanors could be due to an increase in law enforcement near dispensaries. Since cannabis companies aren’t able to put their money in bank accounts they often hire third-party security guards to protect their cash.
The study does not identify any specific reason for a reduction in crime in Denver, and the authors suggest the same results might not happen in a different area.
Solution not as simple as building dispensaries
With every state making their own rules around cannabis, it’s not going to be an apples-to-apples comparison.
In Denver an earlier study by Preventative Medicine similarly compared crime rates in South Los Angeles from 2012 to 2015. There, the results suggested an initial increase in crime did happen although it later declined.
Colorado has been able to generate more than $1 billion in tax revenue since legalizing pot and the city isn’t being overrun with crime. And a recent Canadian study showed legalization had little effect on the productivity and safety of the Canadian workforce.
If nothing else, this recent study could help refute some of the fears gripping every third American who opposes legalization.