In 1996, California was the first state to pass a Compassionate Use Act allowing for the legal use of marijuana for medical purposes. Here we review several current policy and land use environmental interventions designed to limit problems related to the influx of medical marijuana dispensaries across California cities. Then we discuss the special challenges, solutions, and techniques used for studying the effects of these place-based policies. Finally, we present some of the advanced spatial analytic techniques that can be used to evaluate the effectiveness of environmental interventions, such as those related to reducing problems associated with the proliferation of medical marijuana dispensaries. Further, using data from a premise survey of all the dispensaries in Sacramento, this study will examine what characteristics and practices of these dispensaries are related to crime within varying distances from the dispensaries (e.g., 100, 250, 500, and 1,000 feet). We find that some security measures, such as security cameras and having a door man outside, implemented by medical marijuana dispensary owners might be effective at reducing crime within the immediate vicinity of the dispensaries.
This is a preview of subscription content,to check access.
Access this article
Similar content being viewed by others
An Act Relating to Registering Four Nonprofit Organizations to Dispense Marijuana for Symptom Relief, Vermont S.B. 17 (2011, June 2). Retrieved September 28, 2011 from http://www.leg.state.vt.us/docs/2012/Acts/ACT065.pdf.
An Act to Amend the Maine Medical Marijuana Act, Maine LD 1811 § 1-51 (2010). Retrieved September 28, 2011 from http://www.mainelegislature.org/legis/bills/bills_124th/billpdfs/SP071901.pdf.
Ann Arbor, Michigan, Ordinance No. ORD-10-37 (2010).
Arizona Department of Health Services. (2012). Arizona Medical Marijuana Program: Lawsuits. Retrieved March 1, 2012 from http://www.azdhs.gov/medicalmarijuana/dispensaries/lawsuits.htm.
Arizona Medical Marijuana Act, Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 36-2806.01 (2010). Retrieved September 28, 2011 from http://www.azleg.gov/FormatDocument.asp?inDoc=/ars/36/02806-01.htm&Title=36&DocType=ARS.
Ashe, M., Jernigan, D., Kline, R., & Galaz, R. (2003). Land use planning and the control of alcohol, tobacco, firearms, and fast food restaurants. American Journal of Public Health, 93(9), 1404–1408. doi:10.2105/AJPH.93.9.1404.
Bailey, T., & Gatrell, A. (1995). Interactive spatial data (pp. 247–290). Essex, England: Addison Wesley Longman.
California Compassionate Use Act, Cal. Health & Saf. Code § 11362.5. (1996). Retrieved September 28, 2011 from http://www.cdph.ca.gov/programs/MMP/Pages/CompassionateUseact.aspx.
California Police Chief’s Association. (2009). White paper on marijuana dispensaries. Task Force on Marijuana Dispensaries. Retrieved from http://www.californiapolicechiefs.org/files/marijuana_files/files/MarijuanaDispensariesWhitePaper_042209.pdf.
Casteel, C., & Peek-Asa, C. (2000). Effectiveness of crime prevention through environmental design (CPTED) in reducing robberies. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 18(4), 99–115. doi:10.1016/S0749-3797(00)00146-X.
Cliff, A., & Ord, J. (1973). Spatial autocorrelation: Monographs in spatial and environmental systems analysis. London: Pion Limited.
Cliff, A., & Ord, J. (1981). Spatial processes models and applications. London: Pion Limited.
Cohen, L. E., & Felson, M. (1979). Social change and crime rate trends: A routine activity approach. American Sociological Review, 588–608. doi:10.2307/2094589.
Cohen, D. A., Ghosh-Dastidar, B., Scribner, R. A., Miu, A., Scott, M., Robinson, P., et al. (2006). Alcohol outlets, gonorrhea, and the Los Angeles civil unrest: A longitudinal analysis. Social Science and Medicine, 62(12), 3062–3071. doi:10.1016/j.socscimed.2005.11.060.
Colorado Medical Marijuana Code, Colo. Rev. Stat § 12-43.3 (2010). Retrieved September 28, 2011 from http://www.cdphe.state.co.us/hs/medicalmarijuana/1284_enr.pdf.
Cozens, P. M., Saville, G., & Hillier, D. (2005). Crime prevention through environmental design (CPTED): A review and modern bibliography. Property Management, 23(5), 328–356.
Cuniff, M. M. (2011, April 7). Spokane medical marijuana dispensaries on federal notice: Operators, owners could face prosecution, The Spokesman-Review. Retrieved from http://www.spokesman.com/stories/2011/apr/07/spokane-pot-shops-on-federal-notice/.
Daley, Y. (1997, 12/21/1997). California marijuana clubs under fire: Court says they aren’t dispensaries, The Boston Globe, p. A8.
Delaware Medical Marijuana Act, Title 16, Del. Health and Safety Food and Drugs, Chapter 46A. (2011 May 13). Retrieved September 28, 2011 from http://delcode.delaware.gov/title16/c049a/index.shtml.
Denver, Colorado, Council Bill No. 34 (2010).
Felson, M., & Poulsen, E. (2003). Simple indicators of crime by time of day. International Journal of Forecasting, 19(4), 595–601. doi:10.1016/S0169-2070(03)00093-1.
Freisthler, B., Gruenewald, P. J., Treno, A. J., & Lee, J. (2003). Evaluating alcohol access and the alcohol environment in neighborhood areas. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, 27(3), 477–484. doi:10.1097/01.ALC.0000057043.04199.B7.
Freisthler, B., Lery, B., Gruenewald, P. J., & Chow, J. (2006). Methods and challenges of analyzing spatial data for social work problems: The case of examining child maltreatment geographically. Social Work Research, 30(4), 198–210.
Gorman, D. M., Speer, P. W., Gruenewald, P. J., & Labouvie, E. W. (2001). Spatial dynamics of alcohol availability, neighborhood structure and violent crime. Journal of Studies on Alcohol, 62(5), 628.
Gruenewald, P. J., Ponicki, W. R., Remer, L. G., Johnson, F. W., Waller, L. A., Gorman, D. M., & Zhu, L. (2010). Spatial models of the growth and spread of methamphetamine abuse in California. In B. Deeds (ed.) Crime, space and place. New York: Springer.
Gruenewald, P. J., & Remer, L. G. (2006). Changes in outlet densities affect violence rates. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, 30(7), 1184–1193. doi:10.1111/j.1530-0277.2006.00141.x.
Hoeffel, J. (2011, August 19). Medical marijuana dispensary ban case headed back to appeals court, Los Angeles Times. Retrieved from http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/lanow/2011/08/medical-marijuana-dispensary-bans.html.
Holder, H. D., Gruenewald, P. J., Ponicki, W. R., Treno, A. J., Grube, J. W., Saltz, R. F., et al. (2000). Effect of community-based interventions on high-risk drinking and alcohol-related injuries. Journal of the American Medical Association, 284(18), 2341–2347. doi:10.1001/jama.284.18.2341.
Jacobson, M., Chang, T., Anderson, J. M., MacDonald, J., Bluthenthal, R. N., & Ashwood, J. S. (2011). Regulating medical marijuana dispensaries: An overview with preliminary evidence of their impact on crime. RAND Corporation. Santa Monica, CA. Retrieved September 28, 2011 from http://www.rand.org/pubs/technical_reports/TR987.
Kellam, M. (2011, July 27). City moves ahead with ban on pot dispensaries, Glendale News-Press. Retrieved from http://articles.glendalenewspress.com/2011-07-27/news/tn-gnp-glendale-moves-ahead-with-ban-on-pot-dispensaries-20110727_1_marijuana-dispensaries-medical-marijuana-zoning-laws.
Kepple, N. J., & Freisthler, B. (2012). Exploring the ecological association between crime and medical marijuana dispensaries. Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, 73, 523–530.
Kuhney, J. L. (2011, July 25). City’s medical marijuana shops in limbo, Sign On San Diego. Retrieved from http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/2011/jul/25/san-diego-medical-marijuana-ordinance-smoke/.
La Paz County, Arizona, Ordinance No. 2011-02 (2011).
Legalization of Marijuana for Medical Treatment Amendment Act, Council of the District of Columbia, Bill 18-622. (2010). Retrieved September 28, 2011 from http://medicalmarijuana.procon.org/sourcefiles/DCMJLawMay2010.pdf.
Leiderman, J., & Devine, J. B. (2011). Medical marijuana law in California. Washington, DC: NORML.
Loomis, D., Marshall, S. W., Wolf, S. H., Runyan, C. W., & Butts, J. D. (2002). Effectiveness of safety measures recommended for prevention of workplace homicide. Journal of the American Medical Association, 287(8), 1011–1017. doi:10.1001/jama.287.8.1011.
Los Angeles, California, Ordinance No. 181069. (2010 February 3).
Mair, J. S., & Mair, M. (2003). Violence prevention and control through environmental modifications. Annual Review of Public Health, 24(1), 209–225. doi:10.1146/annurev.publhealth.24.100901.140826.
National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML). (2011). Active state medical marijuana programs. Retrieved July 20, 2011 from http://norml.org/index.cfm?Group_ID=3391.
New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act, Pub. L. No. 2009, c.307. (2010 October 1). Retrieved September 28, 2011 from http://www.judiciary.state.nj.us/legis/307.pdf.
Openshaw, S. (1984). The modifiable areal unit problem. Norwich, England: Geo Books.
Papayanis, M. A. (2000). Sex and the revanchist city: Zoning out pornography in New York. Environment and Planning D, 18(3), 341–354. doi:10.1068/d10s.
Paschall, M. J., Grube, J. W., Black, C., Flewelling, R. L., Ringwalt, C. L., & Biglan, A. (2007). Alcohol outlet characteristics and alcohol sales to youth: Results of alcohol purchase surveys in 45 Oregon communities. Prevention Science, 8(2), 153–159. doi:10.1007/s11121-006-0063-0.
Phoenix, Arizona, Ordinance G-5573. (2010).
Sacramento, California, Ordinance 2009-033. (2009).
Sacramento, California, Ordinance 2010-037. (2010).
Sacramento, California, Ordinance 2010-038. (2010).
Schwester, R. (2010). Alcohol outlet densities, crime, and population restrictions on alcohol licenses. Public Administration & Management, 15(2), 365–380. Retrieved from http://www.spaef.com/file.php?id=1254.
Scribner, R. A., MacKinnon, D. P., & Dwyer, J. H. (1995). The risk of assaultive violence and alcohol availability in Los Angeles County. American Journal of Public Health, 85(3), 335–340. doi:10.2105/AJPH.85.3.335.
Seattle, Washington, Ordinance No. 123661. (2011).
The Edward O. Hawkins and Thomas C. Slater Medical Marijuana Act, Chapter 016, H 5359 Substitute A, R.I. Gen. Laws. (2009 June 16). Retrieved September 28, 2011 from http://www.rilin.state.ri.us/PublicLaws/law09/law09016.htm.
The Lynn and Erin Compassionate Use Act, N.M. Stat. § 26-2B (2010). Retrieved September 28, 2011 from http://www.nmlegis.gov/sessions/07%20Regular/final/SB0523.pdf.
Waller, L. A., Goodwin, B. J., Wilson, M. L., Ostfeld, R. S., Marshall, S. L., & Hayes, E. B. (2007). Spatio-temporal patterns in county-level incidence and reporting of Lyme disease in the northeastern United States, 1990–2000. Environmental and Ecological Statistics, 14(1), 83–100. doi:10.1007/s10651-006-0002-z.
White, E. (2011, August 24). Medical marijuana: Michigan court bans sale of pot through private shops. Retrieved September 1, 2011 from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/08/25/michigan-medical-marijuana_n_936214.html.
Research for and preparation of this manuscript were supported by NIDA Grant R01-DA-032715, NIAAA Center Grant P60-AA-006282, and NIDA Training Grant T32-DA07272-19.
About this article
Cite this article
Freisthler, B., Kepple, N.J., Sims, R. et al. Evaluating Medical Marijuana Dispensary Policies: Spatial Methods for the Study of Environmentally-Based Interventions. Am J Community Psychol 51, 278–288 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10464-012-9542-6