The RAND Corporation has nixed its recent study indicating that closing medical marijuana dispensaries leads to increased local crime rates.
The study published last month, "Regulating Medical Marijuana Dispensaries," suggested that Los Angeles regulations mandating a large-scale closing of dispensaries correlated with a 59 percent spike in crime rates in the immediate vicinity of closed dispensaries. Researchers at the Cold War-era think tank, however, used crime data from a site that only included statistics from the L.A. County Sheriff's Department, not the Los Angeles Police Department.
Opponents of the report also objected that the study did not attempt to establish how many dispensaries had actually closed down, as opposed to merely receiving a shutdown order.
I noted when the study came out that while the connection between commercial real estate vacancies and crime made intuitive sense – because the area affected by the government-mandated business closing would be losing security personnel, lights, cameras, foot traffic and other accoutrements of functioning retail business – the popular notion that vacant properties lead to crime has been pretty solidly refuted in the foreclosure boom, where an explosion of residential vacancies has been accompanied by decreasing crime rates.
In any event, dispensary opponents – including local law enforcement officials, the Los Angeles Times, the city attorney's office and local politicians – have lost no time in bogarting the retraction. A Desert Sun story published when the data problems first surfaced called the original study "an eyebrow-raising report that found no link between medical marijuana dispensaries and more crime." In fact, the study raised eyebrows because it suggested a negative correlation between marijuana dispensaries and crime. (There was, and is, not a shred of evidence indicating that dispensaries lead to higher crime rates.) The L.A. Times' John Hoeffel also has a field day with the retraction, not bothering to note that his own hysterical anti-dispensary reporting was cited 21 times in the original study's 25 pages.
Local pols have no incentive to support dispensaries, because thanks to the pious fraud of Prop 215, they are set up as not-for-profits, leaving local governments without opportunities to wet their beaks. But I really cannot emphasize enough how poor the retail environment is in Los Angeles County. Here's a picture taken around the corner from my residence, showing a scene that is extremely common: a dispensary up and running next door to a vacant commercial real estate property. Leave aside the crime issue. If anybody can explain how shutting down the functioning business in this picture will lead to the greater glory of L.A., please (no pun intended) pipe up:
RAND says it intends to redo the report with the LAPD data.