It is a common misconception that the presence of a cannabis dispensary in your neighborhood is bad for the community—that crime will increase, that children will have greater access to cannabis and that said dispensary will decrease the value of the neighborhood as a whole. By preying on the fears of individuals who simply don’t know any better, law enforcement and politicians have perpetuated the false narrative that cannabis is synonymous with crime and negativity. While there are many illegal dispensaries in Los Angeles that unfortunately do fall into this category, there are also numerous law abiding dispensaries like The Higher Path who have made it their mission to exemplify just how positive of an impact a legal dispensary can have on the community it operates within.
An obvious concern for individuals living near a dispensary is crime—will there be an increase when a dispensary opens? A study published in July 2017 suggests that an increase in crime actually occurs when a dispensary is forced to shut down. “Contrary to popular wisdom, we found an immediate increase in crime around dispensaries ordered to close relative to those allowed to remain open,” Jacobson told Science Daily. Why? Similar to restaurants and other retail shops, dispensaries tend to be in areas with high walkability scores. This means that there tend to be more “eyes upon the street” (i.e. more people walking around), which is a factor that is proven to deter certain types of crime—specifically property crime and car thefts. Another factor that reduces crime? Legal dispensaries typically have their own security systems and security guards in order to protect their assets and resolve any disputes that may occur. “Analyses of business improvement districts find that private security can have large returns in terms of crime reduction (Brooks, 2008; Cook and MacDonald 2011).” When an area doesn’t have a dispensary to provide its residents safe access to cannabis, it greatly increases the chances that individuals will seek out cannabis from a drug dealer. Drug dealers certainly don’t increase the walkability score of an area or the security present there. By giving people a safe, legal place to access cannabis you eliminate many of the criminal elements that accompany the illegal drug trade.
Many parents express concerns that a dispensary opening in their neighborhood will give children easier access to cannabis. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Legal dispensaries require each individual to show their medical marijuana recommendation and photo ID on every visit when they check in. In the state of California you must be 18 or older to have a medical marijuana recommendation (there are exceptions made for sick children with the consent of their parent or guardian) and 21 or older to be a recreational consumer. As a result, there is no way for a child to walk into a dispensary and purchase cannabis for themselves. All recommendations and IDs are verified before anyone enters the room where cannabis and cannabis products are available, so even if a child walked in and went up to the front desk they would immediately be asked to leave. I’m going to go ahead and state the obvious here—drug dealers DEFINITELY don’t check IDs. If your concern is keeping children away from cannabis, having a legal dispensary in your neighborhood is the best way to do that because legal dispensaries want to keep cannabis away from children too. That’s why they have rules regarding who can and cannot enter—unless a child is sick they don’t need to have access to cannabis. Having a legal dispensary in your neighborhood is also great tool for creating an open dialogue with your children about cannabis and why they should stay away from it until they are of legal age.
Due to the concerns previously mentioned, many people end up worrying about the presence of a dispensary “bringing down their neighborhood” as a whole. The Higher Path and all other legal dispensaries currently operating in Los Angeles pay taxes to the city and the state just like any other business, which means they are directly contributing to the overall welfare of the city in which they operate. In July 2016 The Higher Path paid $44,800 in taxes and discounted items to medical patients totaling $37,200—this means that over the course of one year The Higher Path puts nearly $1 Million in taxes and donations back into the community. And we’re just one dispensary! There are numerous others paying their taxes as well, which go to the city’s general fund. This fund supports police, fire departments, parks, libraries and the regulation of cannabis laws. Illegal dispensaries and drug dealers don’t pay taxes, they do nothing to give back to their community and they certainly aren’t members of the Chamber of Commerce in their city—which, for the record, we are! The Higher Path was actually the first dispensary to join the Sherman Oaks Chamber of Commerce back in 2016, which has allowed us to really get involved in the community. Just like any other local business, legal dispensaries truly want to see the community they operate in succeed.
Contrary to popular belief, the presence of a legal dispensary in your neighborhood is likely to have a positive impact on your community at large. Unlike illegal dispensaries and drug dealers, legal dispensaries follow strict rules and regulations to ensure that they are secure, prevent the sale of cannabis to minors and give back to their community by paying taxes. Regulated, safe access to cannabis will always be better for a community than forcing individuals to obtain it illegally because there are no other options. Not sure if the dispensary you go to is legal? Check out our blog Get L.E.G.A.L. with The Higher Path for more information!
(1) Does Closing Medical Marijuana Dispensaries Increase Crime? Study Says Yes
(2) Going to pot? The impact of dispensary closures on crime