Exploring the Ecological Association between Crime and Medical Marijuana Dispensaries

Nancy Jo Kepple and Bridget Freisthler
Routine activities theory purports that crime occurs in places with a suitable target, motivated offender, and lack of guardianship. Medical marijuana dispensaries (MMDs) may be places that satisfy these conditions, but this has not yet been studied. The current study examined whether or not the density of MMDs are associated with crime. An ecological, cross-sectional design was used to explore the spatial relationship between density of MMDs, socio-demographics and two types of crime rates (violent crime and property crime) in 95 Census tracts in Sacramento, California during 2009. Spatial error regression methods were used to determine associations between crime rates and density of MMDs, controlling for neighborhood characteristics. Violent and property crime rates were positively associated with percent commercially zoned, percent one person households, and unemployment rate. Higher violent crime rates were associated with concentrated disadvantage. Property crime rates were positively associated with percent of population 15 to 24 years, percent owner occupied households, and presence of highway ramps. Density of MMDs was not associated with violent or property crime rates. Consistent with previous work, variables measuring routine activities at the ecological level were related to crime. There were no observed associations between the density of MMDs and either violent or property crime rates in this study. These results suggest that the density of MMDs may not be associated with crime rates or that measures dispensaries take to reduce crime (i.e., doormen, video cameras) may deter possible motivated offenders.
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