Speculation that medical marijuana dispensaries will lead to increased crime rates in surrounding areas has prompted various empirical and statistical analyses by researchers and law enforcement agencies. These studies have routinely shown that, contrary to these concerns, dispensaries are not magnets for crime. Instead, they suggest that dispensaries are no more likely to attract crime than any other business, and in many cases, by bringing new business and economic activity to previously abandoned or run-down locations, dispensaries actually contribute to a reduction in crime.

What follows is a brief summary of anecdotal and scientific evidence, including law enforcement data analyses and academic research on medical marijuana dispensaries and their effect on crime. For more information on dispensaries, medical use of marijuana, state laws, and other issues related to medical marijuana, please visit mpp.org/medical.

2009 Los Angeles Police Department survey — Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck asked his department to produce a report comparing the robbery rates of L.A. banks and medical marijuana dispensaries. The report indicated that there were 71 robbery reports filed with the LAPD at the city’s 350 banks. Despite there being far more medical marijuana dispensaries — more than 800 at the time according to Beck — there were fewer robbery reports filed at dispensaries: just 47. When asked about the report, and claims that dispensaries are crime magnets, Beck said, “I have tried to verify that because, of course, that is the mantra. It really doesn’t bear out. Banks are more likely to get robbed than medical marijuana dispensaries.”

2009 Denver Police Department survey — An analysis of robbery and burglary rates at medical marijuana dispensaries conducted by the Denver Police Department at the request of the Denver City Council found that the robbery and burglary rates at dispensaries were lower than area banks and liquor stores and on par with those of pharmacies.

2010 Denver Police Department analysis — In late 2010, the Denver Police Department looked at crime rates in areas in and around dispensaries. The analysis showed that through the first nine months of 2010, crime was down 8.2% relative to the same period in 2009. The decrease was comparable to the city’s overall drop in crime of 8.8%. The Denver Post completed a similar analysis and found that crime rates in some areas with the highest concentration of dispensaries saw bigger decreases in crime than neighborhoods with no dispensaries.

2010 Colorado Springs Police Department analysis — An analysis by the Colorado Springs Police Department found that robbery and burglary rates at area dispensaries were on par with those of other businesses. Specifically, the department’s data indicated that there were 41 criminal incidents reported at the city’s 175 medical marijuana businesses in the 18-month period ending August 31, 2010. Meanwhile, over that same period, there were 797 robberies and 4,825 burglaries at other city businesses. These findings led the department’s spokesman, Sgt. Darrin Abbink, to comment, “I don’t think the data really supports [dispensaries] are more likely to be targeted at this point.”

October 2011 UCLA study: “Exploring the Ecological Link Between Crime and Medical Marijuana Dispensaries” — Researchers from UCLA, funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse analyzed two types of crime (violent and property) in areas with varying concentrations of dispensaries. What they found was that “the density of medical marijuana dispensaries was not associated with violent or property crime rates.” In their conclusion, the researchers said, “these results suggest that the density of [medical marijuana dispensaries] may not be associated with increased crime rates or that measures dispensaries take to reduce crime (i.e., doormen, video cameras) may increase guardianship, such that it deters possible motivated offenders.”

June 2011 Regent University study — Researcher Maura Scherrer of Regent University looked at the perception of crime, and medical marijuana dispensaries’ impact on crime, among residents of Denver neighborhoods with varying socio-economic profiles. In so doing, she found that most crimes, including robbery, vandalism, and disorderly conduct increased in Denver from 2008 to 2009. However, in areas within 1,000 feet of a dispensary, rates were down for most types of crime, including burglary, larceny, and a 37.5% reduction in disorderly conduct citations. In her conclusion the author notes, “it appears that crime around the medical marijuana centers is considerably lower than citywide crime rates; a much different depiction than originally perceived.”

2013 Denver statistics — The Denver city- and county-wide murder rate has dropped 42.1% from Jan. 1 through May 31 compared to the same period last year. Violent crime in general is down almost 2%, and major property crimes are down 11.5% compared to the same period in 2013.

February 2014 Urban Geography — Researchers from the University of South Florida, the University of Colorado, and the New York City Criminal Justice Agency set out to determine whether medical marijuana dispensaries in Denver could be considered locally undesirable land uses (LULUs): uses that people do not want to live close to, but which provide services to the community. The researchers studied 275 medical marijuana centers in 75 Denver neighbor hoods and concluded that “ these centers do not appear to have any impact on the urban landscape — and therefore on the health of the communities in which they are located.”

Los Angeles crime trends — Los Angeles has frequently been cited as the city with the most dispensaries and the least regulation of those dispensaries. It is also the most populous city in the state that has the oldest and the broadest medical marijuana law, where any medical condition qualifies. While L.A. voters do prefer some regulation and control — and they approved a ballot measure to create a regulatory system in May 2013 — the city that has been cited as having more dispensaries than Starbucks certainly has not suffered a crime epidemic as a result of its permissive policies. On the contrary, overall crime in Los Angeles has dropped dramatically since dispensing collectives became legal in 2004. Crime rates have plummeted in the past 11 years, with decreases each of those 11 years. They are now the lowest they have been since 1949.

University of Texas at Dallas study — Legalizing medical marijuana causes no increase in crime, according to a new study by University of Texas at Dallas researchers. The study, published in PLOS ONE on Wednesday, appears to settle concerns, simmering since the first states approved medical marijuana nearly two decades ago, that legalization would lead to more crime. “We believe that medical marijuana legalization poses no threat of increased violent crime,” Robert Morris, the study’s lead author, told The Washington Post.

Denver Department of Safety report — A report by the Denver Department of Safety for the first nine months of 2009 and 2010 found