Does Medical Marijuana Distribution Increase Crime?

Learn if medical marijuana distribution leads to an increase in crime in this Howcast video.


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Across the country in medical cannabis states, cities and communities have decided to create what you may have heard of as medical cannabis dispensaries or maybe medical clubs. These places are centers where people who are legally able to access medical cannabis can go and purchase medical cannabis in a safe space. These facilities are community based solutions to an issue of distribution of medical cannabis. Some of the first laws around medical cannabis simply just took away the criminal penalties for an individual patient to be able to possess or to distribute or to cultivate medical cannabis. They didn't really think through how a patient who lives in an apartment complex or doesn't have the ability to grow would access medical cannabis. So these centers, medical cannabis dispensaries, sprung up. They started in California and now have spread around the country as a way for a community to figure out a way to get medical cannabis to patients. Most likely everyday there is a city council or a county council looking at how they are going to regulate medical cannabis distribution. At each of those meetings there is always someone from law enforcement there or a community member quoting law enforcement saying that medical cannabis dispensaries increase crime. To date law enforcement has not been able to produce a single report showing that they increase crime. While the medical cannabis movement has been able to commission study after study showing that actually neighborhoods that have medical cannabis dispensaries have less crime than before the dispensary opened. Now one of the reasons that's true for a community is that this regulation around dispensaries require them to have a lot of security. This means that whatever neighborhood they are coming to they're bringing with them surveillance and other things that are going to help the neighborhood. Another reason that medical cannabis dispensaries actually decrease crime in a community is that it creates an authorized distributor of medical cannabis. This mean that for those individuals in your community who need medical cannabis they're not driving around alleys looking for a dealer and participating in the illicit market. Instead they're going into a center that has been regulated by the community. There are regulations that require them to keep certain business hours; to have certain levels of security. And this means that instead of having patients and their loved ones driving around your community looking for marijuana dealers, they're actually purchasing marijuana in a very controlled way. And so for every city that has passed a medical cannabis ordinance that allows for a dispensary, the communities around those dispensaries thrive. There are hundreds of city council, city managers, city attorneys that report that having these distribution centers in their communities is an asset and that in fact the neighborhoods around those dispensaries are actually some of the safest places in the entire city. Again, that is because you're creating a regulated, controlled market where everybody knows where the cannabis is coming from and where it's going. And through that process, we are reducing crime.


  • Americans for Safe Access

    Americans for Safe Access is the largest national member-based organization of patients, medical professionals, scientists and concerned citizens promoting safe and legal access to cannabis for therapeutic use and research.

  • Dr. Sunil Kumar Aggarwal

    Sunil Kumar Aggarwal, M.D., 2010, Ph.D. Medical Geography, 2008 (UW) completed his internship at Virginia Mason Medical Center in Seattle, Washington and is currently a Resident in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at NYU’s Rusk Institute of Rehabilitation Medicine. As an NSF Graduate Research Fellow, Dr. Aggarwal conducted studies of medical cannabis use under the first-ever granted federal Certificates of Confidentiality with 176 patients recruited from sites of both cannabis delivery and medical consultation. He has authored or co-authored peer-reviewed papers on cannabinoid medical science, dosing, and human rights in addition to a book chapter in a Palliative Medicine textbook and another for the general public.