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RAND caves to politics on medical marijuana research

By Kris Hermes, Americans for Safe Access

The RAND Corporation issued a research study Sept. 20, 2011 that countered law enforcement claims that medical cannabis dispensaries attract crime. “[W]e found no evidence that medical marijuana dispensaries in general cause crime to rise,” said Mireille Jacobson, the study’s lead author and a senior economist at RAND.

The study affirmed the assessment of Americans for Safe Access that local officials who regulated medical marijuana distribution in their communities had seen a decrease in crime around dispensaries. “We reached the same conclusions as RAND,” said ASA Executive Director Steph Sherer. “Unfortunately, law enforcement has largely ignored or refuted these findings.”

According to a statement from RAND, the study “examined crime reports for the 10 days prior to and the 10 days following June 7, 2010, when the city of Los Angeles ordered more than 70 percent of the city’s 638 medical marijuana dispensaries to close.” Researchers analyzed crime reports within a few blocks around dispensaries that closed and compared that to crime reports for neighborhoods where dispensaries remained open. In total, RAND sa, “Researchers examined 21 days of crime reports for 600 dispensaries in Los Angeles County — 170 dispensaries remained open while 430 were ordered to close.”

City Attorney Carmen Trutanich’s office called RAND’s conclusions “highly suspect and unreliable,” and its public condemnation of the report was so great that a month after it was issued, the study was gone.

Apparently caving in to political pressure, RAND officially retracted its study Oct. 24, claiming that some crime data from the LA Police Dept. was overlooked. RAND spokesperson Warren Robak told the LA Times that, “We took a fresh look at the study, based in part upon questions raised by some folks following publication.” He noted that, “The LA City Attorney’s Office has been the organization most vocal in its criticism of the study.”

Few believe that RAND, a highly respected think tank, would have overlooked data from 2009. More to the point, a 2009 study was conducted by LA Police Chief Charlie Beck that compared crime data and reported, “Banks are more likely to get robbed than medical marijuana dispensaries,” and the claim that dispensaries attract crime “doesn’t really bear out.”

It seems that RAND could combine its own data with that of Chief Beck and ASA and still reach the same conclusion.

Read the RAND study at AmericansForSafeAccess.org/downloads/RAND_Study.pdf

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