When respected Santa Monica think tank RAND last year withdrew its controversial study suggesting marijuana dispensaries actually reduced crime in their neighborhoods, the momentum on the issue went to the cops:

L.A. police have long argued — citing anecdotal evidence including murder, robbery and organized crime — that pot shops attract law breakers.

Well, not so fast:

A UCLA study destined for the July issue of the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs says that there is no link between a rise in crime and neighborhoods with cannabis collectives.

There's little evidence linking the stores to less crime, either. The point is that UCLA couldn't confirm the cops' idea that pot shops, with all their drugs and cash, are magnets for bandits and other criminals:

Researchers at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs looked at dispensaries in Sacramento and found, according to a summary, that …

… density of medical marijuana dispensaries was not associated with violent or property crime rates.

And, echoing RAND's self-debunked work, the UCLA academics say that maybe the presence of security guards, lights and video cameras at dispensaries actually deter criminals:

These results suggest that the density of medical marijuana dispensaries may not be associated with crime rates or that other factors, such as measures dispensaries take to reduce crime (i.e., doormen, video cameras), may increase guardianship such that it deters possible motivated offenders.

The debate's not over yet, however. Researcher and doctoral student Nancy J. Kepple says:

This conclusion suggests that we should further question whether medical marijuana dispensaries are related to crime. This study is a good first step. But it was not designed to address the bigger picture of how these dispensaries might be affecting neighborhoods.

[@dennisjromero / djromero@laweekly.com / @LAWeeklyNews]

LA Weekly