[UPDATED W/Official Rand Corp. Retraction] Closing Marijuana Dispensaries Actually Increases Crime, Rand Study Finds
UPDATED Oct. 25, 11:30 A.M: Two weeks after lifting the report from its website, Rand Corporation, the research organization that helped crunch body count numbers during the Vietnam War has officially retracted its study from last month that claimed crime increased near medical marijuana dispensaries after Los Angeles city officials forced them to shut down. The reason: the study failed to include crime statistics from the Los Angeles Police Department.
As it turns out Rand relied on numbers provided by CrimeReport.Com, which according to an LA Times story yesterday, draws from data "from about 1,200 law enforcement agencies, including the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, [which patrols unincorporated areas of LA, where some of the dispensaries in question were operating], but not the LAPD."
In other words, while the report's authors may have correctly interpreted the data they were working with, they (and the folks who fact-checked that work) somehow had no idea that they were missing crime and arrest figures from the third-largest law enforcement agency in the United States.
Yeah, oops. As the Times reports, the Santa Monica-based think-tank now plans to re-evaluate the data and will issue new findings soon, presumably much to the dismay of medical marijuana activists who had hailed the report as evidence that pot actually fights crime.
UPDATED Oct. 12, 11 A.M.: According to an LA Times story yesterday, Rand Corp. has retracted its study claiming crime increased in areas where medical marijuana dispensaries closed and has removed the report from its website. This follows heavy criticism of the study by law enforcement officials who noted that the report was based on extremely limited data both in terms of scope and passage of time and that Rand didn't even confirm that the dispensaries in question had actually closed. Warren Robak, a Rand spokesman, told the Times that the study is being reevaluated. "As we've begun to take a look at the report, we decided it's best to remove it from circulation until that review is complete."
ORIGINAL POST, Sept. 21, 2 P.M.: According to a report released yesterday by the Santa Monica-based Rand Corporation--the same think tank that helped tabulate Vietnam War attrition rates and bring down Laguna Beach's Brotherhood of Eternal Love via link analysis--marijuana is actually good for public safety.
Medical marijuana, that is. You know, the kind you need a doctor's note to get at your friendly local cannabis dispensary, assuming it hasn't been shut down by mean, know-nothing, nanny state-enabling hall monitors. To wit: after studying crime rates in Los Angeles neighborhoods where marijuana dispensaries were operating before and after the city forced them to close in June 2010, the foundation discovered that crime rates actually went up after the dispensaries closed.
The report's lead author, Mireille Jacobson, stated that her research "found no evidence that medical marijuana dispenaries in general cause crime to rise." Her conclusion doesn't come as a surprise to groups like Americans for Safe Access (ASA), which released a press release yesterday hailing the new data. ASA also pointed out that Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck "conducted his own study in 2010 comparing the levels of crime at the city's banks with its medical marijuana dispensaries," finding that a significantly higher percentage of banks were robbed than dispensaries.
Given that municipalities throughout California and the rest of the United States view Southern California's proliferation of dispensaries as a forecast for what would happen were they to allow them to operate, the RAND study's results won't likely go unnoticed.
"'Localities will consider whether to ban dispensaries, and if not, whether and how to control their numbers," Jacobson concluded. "Although the current study cannot offer a definitive answer as to why crime increased around closed dispensaries, it should give jurisdictions reason to question the commonly held view that dispensaries attract and even cause crime in their neighborhoods."
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you'll never miss OC Weekly's biggest stories. Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts