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Friday, September 30, 2011

Study: Bars, Liquor Stores and Restaurants More Dangerous than Marijuana Dispensaries

Posted By on Fri, Sep 30, 2011 at 8:05 AM

click to enlarge Thems the facts
  • Thems the facts

Quick! Pick your crime magnet: The stretch of central Market Street in front of Zuni, or the alleyway near cannabis dispensary Shambhala Healing Center in the Mission District?

Neither blocks are exactly San Francisco's cleanest, but let's face it, SFPD's finest have more work to do in front of Zuni's famous chicken than near Shambhala, where there were only 28 reported crimes so far this month, compared to 39 by Zuni, according to SFPD's CrimeMaps.

Those stats jive with the RAND study released last week which dismissed any link between pot dispensaries and crime.

One professor called this study "deeply flawed," but not because it didn't find a connection between pot dispensaries and crime. Bridget Freisthler, a social welfare professor at UCLA, also studied the subject in 2007, and found that bars, liquor stores, and restaurants have just as much --  and in some cases more -- nefarious activity nearby as marijuana dispensaries do. However, she's not satisfied with her results, nor is she happy with RAND's method or its data, both of which she'll improve upon with the $2.7 million grant she received this month to do more research.

The RAND study -- which both the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department and the San Francisco Police Department pooh-poohed -- is flawed because it only examined crime statistics in the 10 days before and 10 days after some of LA's shuttered dispensaries were forced to close, Freisthler says. In other words, there isn't enough data to back up the results, she said. 

And while it might make a nice headline, it's also too simple to state "pot clubs don't cause crime," Freisthler says. She'll use her $2.7 million from the National Institutes of Health to study the crime trend over time in L.A. and Sacramento (though not San Francisco. Poor us).

Last year, Freisthler examined Sacramento's 31 dispensaries, and she found that those with security cameras, guards or doormen, or signs announcing that buyers needed a recommendation, there were lower crime rates within 250 feet than cannabis collectives without those features.

"I suspect what's going on, although we don't know for sure, is that those areas that already had a strong illegal drug market aren't really seeing a lot of dispensaries because access to marijuana is already easy," she told UCLA's news department. "The dispensaries are finding a market among people who aren't willing to buy on the street. Whether people in charge of the drug markets in dispensary-free areas are actively trying to keep the dispensaries out, I don't know."
Read more about her study here, and eagerly await the results. In the meantime, avoid the problem blocks with fantastic food.

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About The Author

Chris Roberts

Chris Roberts has spent most of his adult life working in San Francisco news media, which is to say he's still a teenager in Middle American years. He has covered marijuana, drug policy, and politics for SF Weekly since 2009.


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