The myths about crime have been largely promulgated by the federal government
Support for legal cannabis is growing nationwide. Recent polls showing 61 percent of American in support of legalization. Furthermore, growing favorability cuts across all age groups. Ten states—plus Washington, DC—have fully legalized adult, recreational use, and 34 states overall have legalized the medical use. But that doesn’t mean all patients and adult consumers enjoy the same freedoms.
According to a just-released survey by Leafly, there is active opposition to dispensaries in many states, animated by a number of spurious claims. Spikes in crime, increased underage use and decline in property values are the usual assertions. But this study actually proves just the opposite.
Regardless of whether legalization was achieved through voter initiative or legislation, all state legalization laws allow municipalities to permit or prohibit cannabis sales within their jurisdictions. Though California has long been touted as the center of America’s cannabis culture, 75 percent of jurisdictions have banned cannabis stores. In Colorado, 65 percent of cities and counties have instituted similar bans. Over half of Massachusetts’ 351 municipalities have banned cannabis stores, while in Washington, 35 percent of cities and one out every five of counties have banned cannabis stores. In Nevada, 75 percent of counties prohibit cannabis stores.
The myths about crime have been largely promulgated by the federal government. One of the most odious studies was issued by the Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA), a federally funded program run by drug enforcement officers and established by the White House Office of Drug Control Policy. It claimed that “marijuana is the gateway drug to homicide.”
But more recent studies using street-level data from cities including Sacramento, Washington, DC, and Los Angeles “suggest that licensed cannabis dispensaries have no impact, or an insignificant effect, on various kinds of crime.” In fact, crime was shown to be less in many cases due to the fact that dispensaries employ security personnel and install video cameras.
As for increases in teen use of cannabis, no study has validated this claim. On the contrary, multiple studies have shown that cannabis use among teens has actually dropped over the past five years.
The Leafly study also disproves the property value canard. Its research found that “legalizing retail marijuana on average increases housing values by approximately 6 percent compared to cities that prohibit retail cannabis stores.” More significantly, a 2018 national survey of real estate agents reported that 75 percent of them did not believe that dispensaries impacted nearby property values.
Included in this study are a number of quotes from notable regulators and local leaders, who have allowed legal dispensaries and have realized gains in public health, tax revenue, economic vitality and community safety.
The report concludes: “Despite the fears of those who want to ban cannabis stores, the published research finds that legal retailers are safe, responsible neighbors.”
As the cannabis industry evolves and finds its footing, responsible, valid data will, hopefully, guide its growth.