Marijuana Stores and Property Crime

by Dr. Lorin Bradbury

Question: With marijuana stores planning to open in Bethel, has anyone done any research on whether or not we can expect an increase in crime when these stores open? Most people say marijuana just makes people mellow and they don’t hurt anyone while under the influence of marijuana.

Answer: Because of the short amount of time that marijuana sales have been legalized in some states (though still illegal federally), there has not been time to produce a body of literature on the subject.

However, there was a seminal article published two years ago (April 2017) in the Journal of Primary Prevention that studied the impact of crime on communities in Colorado when a marijuana store opened. The research was conducted by researchers from Ohio State University.

Researchers were interested in knowing whether opening a marijuana store in a neighborhood increased crime. In Colorado, only stores that were already selling medical marijuana were able to sell recreational marijuana when it became legal, so there was no significant increase in the number of dispensaries. Therefore, they were able to measure any change in crime associated with those dispensaries.

In summary, they found no increase in violent crime associated with the dispensing of recreational marijuana. And they found no increase in crime in the vicinity of the dispensary, but that was probably due to security on the premises of the dispensaries.

However, what they found was an increase in property crimes in neighborhoods not far from the dispensaries. One might assume the property crimes were due individuals looking for valuables to pawn to obtain marijuana. Though that wasn’t addressed by the researchers.

Bridget Freisthler, lead author of the study and professor of sociology at Ohio State University, wrote, “The results show that legal marijuana sales come with a cost.” Further, she stated, “There is a reason to be somewhat concerned about having a marijuana outlet near your home.”

The researchers found that having a recreational marijuana outlet near your home led to levels of property crime similar to being near a bar, a liquor store, or a restaurant that sold alcohol. However, they did not find violent crime associated with marijuana dispensaries.

I suspect in the next few years there will be more research conducted in other states to see if these statistics generalize. However, these statistics should raise some concern if you own property in a neighborhood in which there is a proposed marijuana shop.

Lorin L. Bradbury, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in private practice in Bethel. For appointments, he can be reached at 543-3266. If you have questions that you would like Dr. Bradbury to answer in the Delta Discovery, please send them to The Delta Discovery, P.O. Box 1028, Bethel, AK 99559, or e-mail them to [email protected]

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