Panel Paper: Exploring Neighborhood-Level Impact of Legal Retail Sale of Marijuana on Crime

Friday, November 8, 2019
Plaza Building: Lobby Level, Director's Row E (Sheraton Denver Downtown)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

John Thacker1, Michael Shively1, Ryan Kling2, Maggie Elliott Martin1 and Yvonne Cristy1, (1)Abt Associates, Inc., (2)University of Massachusetts, Boston

Since 2012 the production, sale, and use of marijuana and its derivatives for recreational consumption has been legalized in 10 states, Washington DC and Guam, but still remains a controversial policy nationwide. One point of concern among critics is that dispensaries attract crime in surrounding areas, promoting social disorganization and providing criminals with a large base of people carrying cash due they can target. This paper attempts to examine this issue by analyzing data from the state of Washington, specifically from Seattle, Bellevue and Tacoma, which was among the first states to legalize medical use of marijuana in 1998 and recreational use in 2012. Using geocoded police incident reports to proxy for criminal events, retail dispensary licensing/sales data and other contextual data, we model how the opening of a recreational dispensary affects crime in the surrounding neighborhood using quasi-experimental techniques. Our analyses have found modest but statistically significant increases in crime in Census block groups containing new retail stores.