STORIES

Liquor and Tobacco Shops, Not Dispensaries, Associated with Crime

By David Jenison on February 9, 2018

Homeowners need to take a chill pill if they're freaking out about medical marijuana dispensaries (MMDs) in their neighborhoods. A new study looked at neighborhoods in South Los Angeles and found that liquor stores and tobacco shops were associated with higher crime rates. Dispensaries were not. 

The California- and Kansas-based researchers published their findings in Preventive Medicine, noting that "property and violent crime rates within 100-foot buffers of tobacco shops and alcohol outlets—but not MMDs—substantially exceeded community-wide mean crime rates and rates around grocery/convenience stores." Tobacco shops in particular showed a "significantly" strong association, leading the researchers to suggest, "Tobacco shops may attract crime in low-income cities of color."

What other businesses have been associated with crime? A 2011 study in Criminology & Public Policy suggested that payday lenders might increase crime rates, while others associated crime-rate increases with fast-food restaurants, Wal-Mart stores and home foreclosures. Alternatively, the Journal of Urban Economics published a study in 2017 that found—get ready for the kicker—"an immediate increase in crime around [Los Angeles] dispensaries ordered to close." Moreover, studies in 2016 and 2017 found that property values went up around MMDs that converted into recreational cannabis stores. 

"Single family residences close to a retail conversion increased in value by approximately 8.4% relative to houses that are located slightly farther from a conversion," wrote the authors of the 2017 study, which characterized the gain as "a large positive impact."

This marks yet another study that suggests cannabis is better for communities than alcohol and cigarettes, yet the federal government only prohibits cannabis. 

Photo credit: Flickr/Thomas Hawk.

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