Marijuana Dispensary Locations and the Spatial Autocorrelation of Crime Rates in Denver, Colorado

Authors: Ashley Lanier*, , Fritz Kessler, Penn State
Topics: Medical and Health Geography
Keywords: Cannabis, crime, marijuana, dispensaries, marijuana legalization
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Since 2012, the legalization of marijuana debate has been a focal point of discussion. One popular argument is that legalization increases crime in the vicinity of a dispensary, while others believe it reduces crime, or has no effect at all. In 2012, Colorado became the first state to legalize recreational use of marijuana, and in 2014, the first recreational dispensaries opened across the state. Due to the recent legalization, existing research has not examined more than 1-2 years of data and this timeframe is too short to conclude a longer-term effect that legalization has on in crime activity surrounding dispensaries. This research explores the spatial relationship between marijuana dispensary locations and crime distribution in Denver Colorado. Specifically, do dispensary locations affect the spatial autocorrelation of crime, what types of crimes are statistically related to dispensary locations, and have crime patterns changed over time (2013 to 2018)? Results suggest that after an initial spike in statistically significant high crime rates in areas where there are dispensary locations, in 2015, crime rates either dropped or showed no correlation. The crime types found to be related to the dispensaries were burglary, robbery, and theft, which is likely because dispensaries are mainly cash based businesses. Results from this study could help with future urban planning decisions, as well as inform other states about what to expect when considering legalizing recreational marijuana.

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