As cities across California struggle with how to handle medical marijuana dispensaries and police agencies blame them for an increase in lawlessness, academics are delving into data to find out whether pot shops really do influence neighborhood crime.
Bridget Freisthler, an associate professor of social welfare at UCLA's Luskin School of Public Affairs, has turned up some surprising findings. In her research, she's found that the hundreds of pot dispensaries operating in the city of Los Angeles are clustered in better-off places, like beachside Venice, Hollywood and Westwood, but are notably sparse in places like South Los Angeles.
Worried about crime? Well, you're better off within 100 feet of a dispensary than a liquor store, bar or even a restaurant, according to a 2007 study Freisthler conducted with UCLA social welfare doctoral student Nancy Williams that compared average crime rates.