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Physical Accessibility of California Populations to Licensed and Unlicensed Cannabis Retail Facilities: Implications for Health Equity and Enforcement

Authors: Robert Vos*, University of Southern California, Spatial Sciences Institute, Jennifer Unger, University of Southern California, Keck School of Medicine, Jane Steinberg, University of Southern California, Keck School of Medicine, Aydin Orhun, University of Southern California, Spatial Sciences Institute, Jasmine Wu, University of Southern California
Topics: Medical and Health Geography, Spatial Analysis & Modeling
Keywords: Health Equity, Cannabis, Drug Addiction, Physical Accessibility Modeling, Spatial Pattern Mining, Co-location Analysis
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/6/2020
Start / End Time: 11:40 AM / 1:15 PM
Room: Virtual Track 3
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


In 2016, California Proposition 64 decriminalized recreational cannabis use among adults. Retail sales of cannabis began in January 2018 in some California cities. By October 2018, a major problem emerged with proliferation of unlicensed facilities. We gathered data and analyzed the concentrations of both licensed and unlicensed facilities in relation to diverse California demographics. Demographics were represented by regionalizing the American Community Survey (ACS) around concentrations of different types of facilities to reduce underlying data uncertainty, according to known methods for ACS regionalization (Spielman and Folch 2015). To represent physical accessibility to recreational cannabis products, we used floating catchment area models, like those typically employed to represent physical accessibility to healthcare (Luo 2004; Wand and Luo 2015). One finding is that populations with proximity to any type of cannabis retail, and particularly those with access to unlicensed cannabis retail are disproportionately Hispanic, non-White and low-income. In addition, we analyzed factors associated with notable co-location of cannabis facilities. Following methods in Wang et al. (2017), a local, colocation analysis was performed to mine spatial patterns between cannabis retailer locations and demographics they serve. We map this local statistic to highlight areas where underlying demographic and other drivers are associated with significantly high numbers of cannabis retailers. One surprising finding is that cities that allow cannabis retail have a higher than expected proportion of unlicensed facilities. The paper concludes with recommendations to improve enforcement practices.

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