The Annals of Regional Science

, Volume 63, Issue 1, pp 163–189 | Cite as

The short-run effects of marijuana dispensary openings on local crime

  • Jesse BurkhardtEmail author
  • Chris Goemans
Original Paper


The recent legalization of marijuana in several states has led to increased public interest regarding the effect of legalization on crime. Yet, there is limited empirical evidence relating the legalization of marijuana use and distribution to criminal activity. This paper uses a difference-in-differences design to estimate the effect of marijuana dispensary openings on local crime rates in Denver, Colorado. We find that the opening of dispensaries actually decreases violent crime rates in above median income neighborhoods, an important finding in light of increased political debate surrounding legalization. We also find robust evidence that non-marijuana drug-related crimes decrease within a half-mile of new dispensaries but do not simultaneously increase within a half-mile to mile of new dispensaries, with one possible explanation being that legal marijuana sales and hard drug sales are local substitutes. Finally, in line with previous research, we find that vehicle break-ins increase up to a mile away from new dispensaries.

JEL Classification

K10 K14 K42 R50 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Agricultural and Resource EconomicsColorado State UniversityFort CollinsUSA

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