Crimes such as assaults and thefts rose in areas of L.A. where the shops were forced to close last summer, researchers say. The city attorney's office and a sheriff's spokesman dispute the report's conclusions.
Medical marijuana dispensaries — with storerooms of high-priced weed, registers brimming with cash and some clientele more interested in getting high than getting well — are often seen as magnets for crime, a perception deepened by a few high-profile murders.
But a report from the Rand Corp. reaches a startling conclusion: The opposite appears to be true.
In a study of crime near Los Angeles dispensaries — which the investigators call the most rigorous independent examination of its kind — the Santa Monica-based think tank found that crime actually increased near hundreds of pot shops after they were required to close last summer.
"What I would take away from it is maybe there should just be a little bit less fear about having dispensaries," said Mireille Jacobson, a health economist who was the lead researcher. "Hopefully, this injects a little bit of science into the discussion."
The researchers compared the 10 days before the city's medical marijuana ordinance took effect June 7, 2010, with the 10 days after, when many of the more than 400 illegal dispensaries shut down — if only briefly.
They found a 59% increase in crime within three-tenths of a mile of a closed dispensary compared to an open one and a 24% increase within six-tenths of a mile.