Medical marijuana is already legal in 17 states and the District of Columbia, and seven more states will decide whether to legalize it by the end of this year. As public support for medical marijuana grows, however, some misconceptions about marijuana remain — as illustrated in a recent exchange with a Drug Enforcement Agent official who refused to admit that marijuana is less harmful than crack cocaine.
A new UCLA study helps to ease some of the misguided fears about the danger of medical marijuana, pointing out that medical marijuana dispensaries don’t lead to any increase in crime rates in the areas where they’re located. Although other environmental factors like unemployment are clear contributors to rising crime rates, the study concludes that medical marijuana shops are not linked to violent or property crime:
Places such as medical marijuana dispensaries provide an opportunity where the conditions for crime outlined by routine activities theory can also converge. […] Percentage of a census tract that was commercially zoned, percentage of housing units in a census tract that were one-person households, and unemployment rate were positively related to violent and property crime rates. However, no crosssectional associations were observed between the density of medical marijuana dispensaries and violent or property crime rates, controlling for ecological variables traditionally associated with routine activity theory.
The study, which examined 95 different areas around Sacramento, builds upon similar findings from another California-area study. Although the study’s author points out that the research will paint a broader picture once extrapolated to different areas of the country, it is yet another sign that fears about marijuana leading to increased violence, crime, and drug use are overblown. In fact, there is evidence to suggest that legalizing marijuana actually leads to positive effects, including the potential to decrease teens’ use of drugs like cocaine.