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Areas with legal marijuana shops have no more crime than areas with bars

The crime tends to be less violent.

Image: Tri-City Herald

SHOPS WHICH SELL legalised marijuana lead to no more crime in surrounding areas than those areas with bars or alcohol stores, a new study has found.

Researchers at Ohio State University found that crime isn’t higher in the area immediately surrounding marijuana outlets. But adjacent areas saw about 84 more property crimes per year than neighbourhoods without a nearby marijuana store.

In Denver, no significant increase in violent crime was seen as a result of marijuana sales.

The results show that legal marijuana sales come with a cost, said Bridget Freisthler, lead author of the study and professor of social work at The Ohio State University.

“If you’re looking strictly from a public health standpoint, there is reason to be somewhat concerned about having a marijuana outlet near your home,” Freisthler said.

Putting this risk in context, marijuana outlets led to similar levels of property crime as bars, liquor stores and restaurants that serve alcohol, data from the study suggests. And businesses that sold alcohol led to much more violent crime than marijuana outlets.

The study was published online today in the Journal of Primary Prevention.

Density

The researchers examined crime statistics for 481 Census block groups in Denver over 34 months (January 2013 to October 2015). When the study began, marijuana could only be sold for medical purposes. But beginning in January 2014, marijuana outlets were able to sell to the general public, giving the researchers the opportunity to see if recreational sales were tied to increases in crime.

The change in the law allowing recreational sales did not result in an increase in crime, results showed.

“It is the number and density of outlets that is important, not whether they are medical or recreational,” Freisthler said.

But there is a caveat to that finding. After the law was first changed to allow recreational sales, only those dispensaries that already were selling for medical purposes were allowed to apply for a license to sell recreational marijuana in Colorado.

As a result, the number of outlets didn’t change much.

Read: Switzerland is selling legal cannabis that contains potential health benefits but without the high

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