In 1996, California was the first state to pass a Compassionate Use Act which allowed for the legal use of cannabis for medicinal or medical purposes. Despite leading the way for the use of cannabis in the treatment of many chronic disorders, little systematic research has been conducted that has examined how the opening and closing of these dispensaries change the ecological landscape of the neighborhoods in which they are located. The current application takes advantage of a natural experiment occurring in Los Angeles and Sacramento Cities to assess how both the growth of and subsequent reduction in these dispensaries has resulted in changes in crime and cannabis use and dependence over a thirteen-year period. The proposed research will examine the relationship between the density and location of these dispensaries, prices of marijuana and related products, and crime in multiple contexts. Further, use of portal surveys will enable us to understand the distance to which clients travel to obtain cannabis and the types of clients who use different dispensaries.
Five specific aims will be tested: (1) Examine whether the density of cannabis dispensaries is related to increases in rates of violent and property crimes;(2) Examine whether the changing density of cannabis dispensaries is related to similar changes in rates of cannabis dependence and abuse;(3) Determine whether or not neighborhood characteristics (including location and density of other dispensaries) are related to price differences across dispensaries;(4) Investigate whether or not there is greater clustering by patron characteristics consistent with niche theory in high density areas;and (5) Determine whether or not patterns of medical cannabis use correspond to overall health levels and/or diagnosis of medical cannabis patients.

Public Health Relevance

The aim of this study is to understand how regulations designed to reduce densities of cannabis dispensaries affects crime and use and to determine whether types of medical cannabis users cluster in dispensaries within communities, and whether clustering is increased in areas with many dispensaries, leading to increased problems. The short-term goal of the proposed research is to provide information about clients who use dispensaries, characteristics of the dispensaries themselves, and their relationship to crime and cannabis abuse and dependence. The long-term goal is to provide communities with specific guidance to regulatory processes that may ameliorate neighborhood problems related to cannabis dispensaries.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)
Research Project (R01)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZDA1-GXM-A (04))
Program Officer
Deeds, Bethany
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University of California Los Angeles
Social Sciences
Other Domestic Higher Education
Los Angeles
United States
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