Medical Marijuana Clubs Still Don't Cause Crime, Study Says

Categories: Marijuana
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It's those darn stoners again!
Whenever a new medical marijuana dispensary applies for a San Francisco permit, a troop of naysayers is ready with a predictable script: dispensaries cause crime, harm children, and destroy neighborhoods.

However, the city's Planning Commission tired of this long ago -- because it's simply not based on fact. "We have not had direct testimony of law enforcement that they believe there is an increase in crime in areas because there is medical marijuana dispensaries," Commissioner Michael Antonini said March 1 in response to such claims.

Local zoning decisions are not made based on this misnomer, but federal-level law enforcement moves are. Dispensary-related crime, and instances of this crime near children, are exactly why local United States Attorney Melinda Haag shut some 10 state-legal Bay Area cannabis dispensaries since Oct. 7, 2011.

Haag presented no data along with her claims, and a recent study conducted by UCLA researchers won't help her either. Based on crime trends in Sacramento in 2009, the study found "no observed ... associations between the density of medical marijuana dispensaries and either violent or property crime rates," and further found that dispensary security measures like door guards and security camera may be crime deterrents.

Crime predictions are often based on "routine activity theory," the study says. According to this theory, crime will occur when several condition are met: "The presence of a motivated offender; a suitable target defined by its value, visibility, access, and/or likelihood of low resistance to crime; and the absence of guardians against crime."

Researchers Nancy Kepple and Bridget Freisthler looked at other crime-causing variables including employment, young men, and vacant housing. They crunched the numbers and found no discernible link.

"[D]ispensaries may be associated with crime but no more than any other facility in a commercially zoned area with conditions that facilitate crime," they wrote. That is not causal, and they did not factor "guardianship" -- i.e. security cameras, doormen -- in their study. If they did, one could extrapolate that dispensaries in fact reduce crime.

"If medical marijuana dispensaries have strong guardianship, such as security and monitoring systems, routine activity theory would suggest that the three necessary conditions for crime are not met," the researchers wrote.

The researchers stop far short of proclaiming any kind of direct relationship, but note that "these findings run contrary to public perceptions," notably a report from the California Police Chiefs Association, which says doom, gloom, and thugs with guns inevitably follow the opening of a pot club.

So why does this canard persist? Why do politicians say, "liquor store yes -- pot club, no"?

An Oakland dispensary owner we talked to about the study recently suggested another problem-causing zoning use: schools -- specifically middle or high schools. "These kids are a menace," he said, referring to the teenagers who sometimes engage in vandalism on their way to or from a downtown charter school. "Ask anyone one this block who'd they rather be near."

Hmm. We hear much about how the crackdown is intended to "save the children" -- but who then is saving us from the children?

We put in a request to SFPD to discuss the current study, but haven't yet heard back. We will update when we do. In the meantime, we're left with the 2009 white paper from the California Police Chiefs Association, which stated unequivocally that dispensaries are nothing but trouble.

Confirmation bias is a hell of a drug.

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Guest
Guest

 I can't speak to crime correlation with regards to pot clubs in San Francisco, never read the study, but I can comment on Pot Clubs in Santa Venetia, Marin County. See: http://www.marinij.com/sanrafael/ci_20446254/fourth-suspect-still-at-large-san-rafael-pot As a neighbor of this pot club and a resident of the neighborhood I can tell you that crime has indeed gone up. In the incident above, shots were fired and innocent bystanders were put at risk. Previous to this incident, and previous to this particular pot club, there was former pot club called tree of life.  The burglar alarm on that club was a large bell. Went off three Saturday nights in row.  When the pot club got busted and was removed, the alarm stopped. Also see: http://www.marinij.com/sanrafael/ci_20750829/man-stabbed-robbed-santa-venetia. You can do all the studies you want.  I open my door, I see the pot club, I see people trying to rob the pot club, I see patrons with guns at the pot club. Suffice it to say, I never bought a house in this neighborhood because it was close to a pot club.  The opposite is true.  I bought the house because it was a quiet and safe neighborhood. Pot clubs don't belong in Residential Areas.  This is not a safe haven for patients to obtain medicine.  How can it be when the place is getting shot up?  All these pots clubs ever did, in this neighborhood, was brings guns and violence to our community.

Maxine
Maxine

The Snitch needs an editor!

Mialexa0010
Mialexa0010

I disagree. We have 3 liquor stores in 3 blocks. They sell a variety of items. Pot clubs sell only pot. Liquor stores attract a wide variety of customers, some bad, some good, while the pot club attracted a more hardcore type of men. Possibly men who have lost credit with traditional drug dealers even. Alcohol, detrimental though it may be, is legal and generally accepted by society, pot, stupidly, is still not. I rode the bus with many of the men heading to the pot club. I listened to their conversations. Scary stuff. One of the guys was bragging on his cell phone about hoarding cough medicine and having a couple of 15 year olds come over after he got high off pot and codiene. He showed a serious lack of consideration for everyone around him. Alcoholics run the gamut of types, while the people frequenting the pot club were clearly ex-cons and future cons. I am for the legalization of pot, but the pot club attracted really bad people. I would be the first person to go to any council meeting to protest a reopening of any pot club in Alameda

C
C

It's a FACT that pot clubs will enhance neighborhoods instead of degrade them like liquor stores that sell poisonous alcohol and ciggyz. Talk about low life impact! Those stats alone from ciggyz should be enough to close down a liquor store!  add alcohol and you have a hands down knockout punch for killing people hourly. put that in your pipe and smoke it!

Mialexa0010
Mialexa0010

Actually, the people that were here buying pot were probably selling it to buy other drugs or supplement their other drugs and alcohol. I lived with a drug addicted mother and an alcoholic father for the first 18 years of my life, so I know from whence I speak and pot does not "supress vomiting" in drunks. I have to say that in the months the pot club was here I did not see one customer who looked like an average person who needed pot for medical reasons. Now I was not near the club all day, so I 've no doubt there were some average people looking to buy actual medical marijuana for legitimate reasons, but I never saw any. No doubt they didn't loiter around and try to pick up women afterward, so were not that visible. As for the city, it was Alameda.

MrEricSir
MrEricSir

Your story isn't the slightest bit believable because of the part at the end -- marijuana suppresses vomiting.

Chris Roberts
Chris Roberts

Hi Mialexa -- Where was this and what club was it? Feel free to let us know more. Thanks for reading, C

Edgar Diaz
Edgar Diaz

everyone is high! what crime?! LOL

Mialexa0010
Mialexa0010

Maybe they don't cause more crime, but they contribute to a lower quality of life for people who live near them. Here in my city they opened a pot dispensary a few years back. I used to get off the bus near it. There were always scuzzy lowlifes hanging out around the area. Clearly they were not really medically in need of the pot. They were addicts and alcoholics and sturdy beggars. They would grunt and make sexual remarks to me and I am sure any other women who walked by. I stopped using that bus stop and only started using it again only when the city declned to renew the club's license. Also, in the morning, there was often vomit on the sidewalk and sometimes passed out people sleeping n doorways. No thanks.

MrEricSir
MrEricSir

"Does this mean the SF Weekly will back the Libertarian candidate..." Want to know how I know you don't read SF Weekly?

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