Tuesday, 17 February 2015

The location of medical cannabis dispensaries across California

SPHPM’s Christopher Morrison has co-authored a study with researchers from the Berkley Prevention Research Centre and UCLA examining the sites of medical cannabis dispensaries across California. 

The decision to legalise the distribution of cannabis for medical reasons has garnered significant attention with different communities supporting or opposing the legalisation of the substance.

Individuals who are against the legalisation of medical cannabis claim that dispensaries available to the public will impact the community and cause an increase in the amount of crime within the area. A study conducted in Sacramento disproved this assumption, with no relationship being proven between the amount of dispensaries and the rate of property or violent crime. There has been no further research on whether medical cannabis dispensaries can have a damaging influence within populations. 

Studies conducted previously have determined that states with laws allowing the use of medical cannabis had a higher number of individuals using the substance than states without such legislation. However, this research is conflicting as a similar study did not find such a correlation. Furthermore, studies that have found such relationships have not been able to determine the reason for causation.

This paper evaluated the current location of medical cannabis dispensaries In relation to socio-economic factors, demand for the substance and past data on other geographical areas that have legalised previously illicit drugs.

5490 individuals living across 39 cities in California were involved in a telephone survey to first determine demographic links to the use of cannabis. This data allowed the researchers to assess the average demand for marijuana for multiple census block groups. The study then sourced areas that had current cannabis dispensaries, which was compared against the average demand whilst considering the socio-demographic features of the census groups. This was conducted through the use of a Bayesian conditional autoregressive logit model.

The results indicated that the location of cannabis dispensaries were in areas with higher demand, a numerous number of alcohol outlets, higher rates of poverty and areas outside city borders. A 10% rise in the need for cannabis in one of the census block groups was linked with a higher likelihood (2.4%) of a dispensary being in the area.

The researchers conclude that an increased demand for marijuana in the individual block groups (from the census groups) can be associated with the site of dispensaries on a block group level. The multiple socio-demographic factors assessed earlier reveal that communities which are unable to oppose the opening of dispensaries are at a higher risk of a cannabis dispensary being opened in their neighbourhood.

The study can be read in full here.

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