Study: Pot shops lead to more property crime in nearby neighborhoods

Neighborhoods with nearby legal marijuana stores see more property crime each year than those without pot shops, according to new research from an Ohio State University social work professor who examined three years of data in Denver.

“If you’re looking strictly from a public health standpoint, there is reason to be somewhat concerned about having a marijuana outlet near your home,” said Bridget Freisthler, lead author of a study published online Thursday in the Journal of Primary Prevention. There was no significant boost in violent crime as a result of marijuana sales, the study found.

Related: New rules set for medical marijuana use in Ohio

Here is some context: property crimes near marijuana stores were on par with what you’d find in areas with bars, liquor stores and restaurants that serve alcohol and businesses that sold alcohol led to much more violent crime than marijuana outlets, researchers found.

Freisthler and her colleagues examined crime stats — violent, property and marijuana outlet specific — in 481 census block groups in Denver from January 2013 to October 2015. Starting in January 2014, marijuana could be sold for recreational use. Researchers didn’t find any bump in crime when recreational use was made legal.

Related: Would you pay $50 a year to use medical marijuana in Ohio?

“It is the number and density of outlets that is important, not whether they are medical or recreational,” Freisthler said.

Last year, Freisthler and her colleagues published a study from Long Beach, Calif., that also found property and violent crime increased in neighborhoods adjacent to marijuana outlets. Why isn’t crime increasing right nearby the outlets? Freisthler said it’s likely because the outlets have security guards and cameras.

“There are definitely negative public health consequences, including increased crime,” she said in a written statement. “There may be economic benefits in terms of more tax revenue and money spent in neighborhoods. Citizens have to decide how they want to measure the benefits and costs.”

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The study comes as Ohio establishes its legal medical marijuana program.

Ohio legalized medical marijuana last June when Gov. John Kasich signed a bill into law that authorizes use by patients with 21 conditions, including cancer or chronic pain, in the form of edibles, oils, patches and vaporizing. Smoking or home growing it is barred.

The program is being established and regulated by three state agencies: Board of Pharmacy, Department of Commerce and State Medical Board.

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