A study conducted by the University of Colorado at Denver has shown an initial increase in crime rates in neighborhoods near cannabis dispensaries that is followed by a decline over time, EurekAlert reports.
The study looked at neighborhoods in the Denver area. Researchers controlled for variables such as socioeconomic advantage and “high-risk” commercial establishments like check-cashing businesses and pawn shops.
“We found that neighborhoods with one or more medical or recreational dispensary saw increased crime rates that were between 26 and 1,452% higher than in neighborhoods without any commercial marijuana activity. But we also found that the strongest associations between dispensaries and crime weakened significantly over time.” –Lorine A. Hughes, associate professor in the School of Public Affairs at the University of Colorado Denver, study author
One theory about how the “associations between dispensaries and crime” weakened significantly over time comes down to the source of the study’s data.
Statistics regarding crime were taken from the Denver Police Department. Because a large portion of the data was from this official police source, it is possible the data shows a skew from police targeting neighborhoods for enforcement specifically because they had a dispensary.
The authors concluded that the takeaway from this study is not that legalized cannabis causes crime, but rather that governments need to do more to support dispensary operations in supportive and secure ways.
“If Denver’s experience is representative, major spikes in crime are unlikely to occur in other places following legalization,” said study co-author Lonnie M Schaible.