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UCLA Medical Marijuana Research Team Releases Brief On Dispensaries The team examined the changes in the number and location of medical marijuana dispensaries in the city of Los Angeles.

By Angel Ibanez
UCLA Luskin Student Writer 

The UCLA Medical Marijuana Research team led by Social Welfare professor Bridget Freisthler recently released a brief that examines the changes in the number and location of medical marijuana dispensaries in the city of Los Angeles over a seven year time period.

The brief illuminates the prevalence of medical marijuana dispensaries in the city. In 2007, Los Angeles had 187 open and operating dispensaries but by 2014 the number had reached 418. This finding could have implications on the monitoring of dispensaries. In 2013 voters passed Proposition D, a city ordinance that would, in part, limit the number of medical marijuana dispensaries allowed in the city to 135. Despite this ordinance, Freisthler’s research showed that the city currently has over three times that limit as of 2014. 

The research also showed a shift in distribution of dispensaries across the city, moving “from the San Fernando Valley and East L.A. to the South L.A. and San Pedro areas”.


The map shows the rate of change of medical marijuana dispensaries in the city from 2007 to 2014. While some neighborhoods saw a decrease in dispensaries, the rate of change in others, like South LA and San Pedro, increased over 250 percent. 

According to Freisthler, the shift in dispensary distribution can be attribute to gang activity where in areas like South LA “dispensaries were run out by the gangs. And now gangs are converting parts of their street market to dispensaries.”

The large increase in dispensaries in San Pedro could also be a result of cause and effect.  As dispensaries were being shut down in Long Beach “due to increased enforcement, dispensaries migrated to San Pedro,” Freisthler says. 

The study was funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse and led by Dr. Bridget Freisthler, Principal Investigator, with Dr. Paul J. Gruenewald, Co-Investigator; Crystal Thomas, Graduate Student; Alexis Cooke, Graduate Student Researcher; and Alex Creek, Student Researcher.  

The UCLA Medical Marijuana Research team was initiated as a way to examine how the emergence of dispensaries change the ecological landscape of the neighborhoods in which they are located, including changes in crime and dependence. The research team hopes to provide communities with guidance on regulatory processes that may improve neighborhood problems related to dispensaries.