Marijuana complacency sentences to ponder

…an additional dispensary in a neighborhood leads to a reduction of 17 crimes per month per 10,000 residents, which corresponds to roughly a 19 percent decline relative to the average crime rate over the sample period. Reductions in crime are highly localized, with no evidence of spillover benefits to adjacent neighborhoods.

That is from a newly published paper by Jeffrey Brinkman and David Mok-Lamme, via the excellent Kevin Lewis.


Pot shops are populated by heavily tattooed individuals. Put this paper with the previous one and you have short-sighted time preference impulsives who bring a reduction in local crime. Especially true if they answer surveys from Amazon Mechanical Turk.

So if you believe this poppycock the solution to crime is to flood the world with pot shops. So don't ban guns allow more pot stores.

this dose of "social" science needs to be interpreted in context
violent crime in denver is not down
violent crime is up bigly since cannabis legalization circa 2014

So the thugs are too busy smoking?

...or that shooting each other to establish a sales monopoly in the area became meaningless (uneconomical).

But why would this be a "highly localized" effect? Are people who live a mile away from a dispensary still going to predominantly use illegal drug dealers? I doubt it.

The authors suggest it may be due to law enforcement behavior around dispensaries (see link to paper below).

Ok, maybe. The police are more diligent where there are pot shops. Maybe that effect fades with time? It doesn't appear operative where there are liquor stores, but maybe it happened when Prohibition first ended?

Consider that pot is a substitute for other substances. Lesser evil.

Here is a working paper version that is freely available:

They suggest that it may be due to changed law enforcement behavior around dispensaries, rather than the "complacency" of drug users. This would explain why the effect is highly localized, something that is otherwise hard to understand.

I just find it amazing that we would consider this sort of "research" as a useful path to finding the truth. It's such a complicated and unlikely result, who knows what shenanigans the researchers might have engaged in. What is the incentive of the researchers - are they anti pot? I don't think so!

And even if every single part of this study is impeccable, you're not going to get any sort of understanding of the long term impact of decriminalisation by measuring marginal little changes. Perhaps the remaining energy of the United States will be sapped and the country will sink further into mediocrity.

It has its weaknesses, but I think this research still has merit. Many studies of a similar topic, using different methods and data, do begin to build up a picture, even if the amount shown by a single study is limited. I also expect this type of research to get better and more cost effective as the amount of data increases and methods of analysing data improve.

Also, the alternative to studies like this is often to perform no evaluation of public policy whatsoever, which is worse.

Things could definitely be better. Governments should be expected to conduct pilot projects designed for evaluation (something akin to clinical trials) before rolling out major policy changes. That may not work for marijuana legalization, but for many programs it would be feasible.

@dan1111: thanks. It was not clear enough in the article but it seems the "law enforcement behavior" refers to the police not going after marijuana, they have more resources to focus on other types of crime. That would explain the lower crime rate close to the dispensary and higher rate away from the dispensary. This should be a temporary effect while a new equilibrium between criminals and the more effective police is attained.

I assumed it meant more aggressive policing around dispensaries as potential focal points of criminal activity.

But in either case, it would make the result a lot less interesting. Dispensaries cause limited police resources to be allocated differently (at least in Denver policing policy), but it remains unclear what their actual effect on crime might be.

“We found that neighborhoods with one or more medical or recreational dispensary saw increased crime rates that were between 26 and 1,452 percent higher than in neighborhoods without any commercial marijuana activity,” notes Lorine A. Hughes, PhD, associate professor in the School of Public Affairs at the University of Colorado Denver, who led the study. “But we also found that the strongest associations between dispensaries and crime weakened significantly over time.” ...

"The study found that except for murder, the presence of at least one medical marijuana dispensary was associated with a statistically significant increase in neighborhood crime and disorder, including robbery and aggravated assault."

Dispensaries tend to be in higher crime areas to begin with. This paper attempts to control for that, but may do so imperfectly.

Also, the two studies are concerning different time periods and sets of dispensaries (this one looks at the initial wave after legalization, while the above looks at new dispensaries opened well afterward).

Interestingly, both studies suggest changes in policing, rather than changes in criminal behavior, may explain the results. However, these claims appear to contradict each other (and they are using the same data source).

Overall, there's a lot to unpack here.

Or perhaps theres nothing at all here.

It's possible that one or both of the studies just sucks... However you would have to actually investigate this and figure it out.

"A rash of marijuana thefts has Seattle growers wondering: Is the government leading the thieves right to them?"

Dinesh Chawla, a business partner of President Trump’s company on multiple hotel projects in the Mississippi Delta until earlier this year, was arrested last week on felony charges of stealing two pieces of luggage from the Memphis airport. Last year, The New York Times profiled Mr. Chawla, whose father, V. K. Chawla grew up in a refugee camp in Punjab, India, and started the family’s hotel business about three decades ago after seeking the advice of Mr. Trump, then a New York real estate developer.

According to police records, airport security footage recorded Chawla on Aug. 18 removing another passenger’s suitcase from a baggage claim carousel and putting it in his car before taking a flight. The airport police said they searched the car and discovered the suitcase and another piece of luggage that had been taken from the airport a month earlier. Mr. Chawla was arrested when he returned to Memphis on Thursday and that he admitted to stealing the two bags and their contents, valued at about $4,000, according to a police affidavit. The records also said Mr. Chawla had confessed to stealing other luggage “over a long period of time,” but it provided no details of other thefts.

Mr. Chawla told an officer “that he knows stealing luggage is wrong, but he does it for the thrill and excitement,” the records said.

You could not have found a more tenuous link to Trump than that. The NYT has fallen so far over the past few years. Or perhaps they're just more blatant about it.

Ray, often your comments are interesting but sometimes they go to Pot. What does your comment have to do with the Marijuana and crime post?

You called for a cuck? I'm here!

I don't know about Colorado but in California every pot shop has a team of security guards outside the front door. With no access to the banking system most shops have a lot of cash on site so the extra security is needed. Could the reduction in crime have less to do with what is being sold and more to do with security guards watching over the premises and the surrounding area?

Poppycock and balderdash. The entire premise of important measurable impacts is flawed.

It's a dang retail goods store. They are like video rental stores. People come in, people go out. They don't hang around out front. They don't walk out and shoot up on the stoop or spark up at the curb. They don't loiter out front and beg. The get out of their cars, then they get back into their cars. The neighborhoods don't change. People don't move out, or move in. People come in, put down some cash, and then get in their cars and go home.

Any impacts on neighborhood character are surely local, anecdotal and coincidental.

Basically, just think of cannabis as a new version of alcohol. These are high end liquor stores, it's not a big deal.

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