Property Crimes Increase Near Legal Marijuana Dispensaries Interview with:



Nathan J. Connealy
Doctoral student
John Jay College of Criminal Justice
CUNY What is the background for this study?

Response: The background, or what prompted this study, is that research on this topic is pertinent right now as more states continue down a path towards legalization. A large share of the research base and public debate centers around the potential adverse effects of marijuana accessibility, consumer-based concerns, and health specific outcomes associated with usage.

This research instead focuses on a lesser explored question related to the potential for the physical dispensary locations to impact crime levels, which is also an important consideration when assessing the impact of recreational marijuana legalization. What are the main findings?

Response: This study departs from the approach of similar research by analyzing the effect of marijuana dispensaries at a highly localized level. By focusing on the street segments that dispensaries are located on or directly adjacent to, we provide insight into the potential spatial effects that marijuana retail establishments can have on crime. The research highlights that dispensaries only demonstrated a significant impact on property crime and only on the street segments with a dispensary. This may suggest that the impact of dispensaries on crime is largely limited to the dispensary location itself. A cost-benefit analysis also found the associated crime costs were largely offset by sales revenue. Monetary benefits were much less pronounced, and barely cost effective, when only considering tax revenue, though. What should readers take away from your report?

Response: Our study found that recreational marijuana dispensaries only demonstrated a significant impact on property crime, and that the impact of dispensaries on crime seems to be largely limited to the dispensary location alone. Further, the cost-benefit analysis findings indicate that the potential increases in non-violent crime may be offset, or tolerated, due to the substantial increases in sales and tax revenue generated by recreational dispensaries. As it pertains to the public policy debate on recreational legalization, policymakers must consider whether the public would be willing to tolerate the crime increases given the potential for large revenue gains that could be used on local education and infrastructure initiatives. Or, if the public would rather not take on the potential burdens like increased crime associated with recreational dispensaries. What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work? 

Response: Now that recreational marijuana is legal in eleven states (plus the District of Columbia), future research should explore the generalizability of the current study’s findings across different study settings. Additionally, due to data limitations, this study was not able to incorporate specific characteristics of the recreational dispensaries. Moreover, future studies could explore the criminogenic impact of dispensaries on specific crime types as opposed to aggregated categories to determine more explicit linkages between dispensaries and crime.

No disclosures


The Criminogenic Effect of Marijuana Dispensaries in Denver, Colorado: A Microsynthetic Control Quasi-Experiment and Cost-Benefit Analysis

Justice Evaluation Journal December 2019
A publication of the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences 


Last Modified: [last-modified]


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Last Updated on December 5, 2019 by Marie Benz MD FAAD