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Have medical marijuana dispensaries increased crime in other towns?

10/29/2015 1:30 PM |

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Some members of the community are concerned that Riverhead’s medical marijuana dispensary will bring with it a spike in crime. The News-Review contacted law enforcement officials in towns across the country where medical marijuana dispensaries already exist to get their opinions on how those facilities have affected local crime rates.

Salem, Massachusetts

Dispensary opened in June

Police Chief Mary Butler

“No, I don’t see any real increase in crime … The organization that started it has been very forthcoming. They are an organization that does not display product. They display it all via computer and people make their selections based on that. So it’s not like there’s a counter filled with product … They have an intake process, so people have to check in. It’s not like a free-for-all like Macy’s … There are no real concerns that have resulted from that project … Working very closely and communicating any information back and forth is important.”

Navajo County, Arizona

Medical marijuana approved in 2012

Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Jim Molesa

“I have three [dispensaries] within my county and within my jurisdiction. We have noticed attempted burglaries of those facilities, about four a year … It’s a spike because it’s a new business. The only reason they’re breaking into a dispensary is that they’re hoping to gain whatever product in stock. Would they burglarize that business independent of that? If that business sold widgets, I doubt that … We have also experienced an increase in drug intoxicated vehicular issues, both DUI and accidents. Skyrocketing? No, it’s not. But we’ve seen more than we’ve seen before … [The increase in crime] is not huge. It would be incorrect for me to say that it’s exponential. What it has done, though, and what it will do in Suffolk County, is we are now combatting a full-blown legalization issue in the upcoming 2016 election. Medical marijuana is nothing more than a gateway.”

Payson, Arizona

Dispensary opened in 2013

Police Chief Don Engler

“Not really [any increase in crime], no. Prior to having a dispensary in our community, the Arizona law was written so that individuals are allowed to cultivate marijuana at their homes. We had much more difficulty with the uncontrolled cultivation of marijuana at homes than we’ve had with the dispensary environments … Nothing real significant at this point. It’s been pretty good.”

Brewer, Maine

Dispensary opened in May 2012

Deputy Police Chief Jason Moffitt

“There are things I can attribute a growth in crime to, but this is not one of them … The medical dispensaries are a far cry from some of the recreational-type stores you’re seeing in Western states … There have been occasions where we’ve seized marijuana that appeared to have been diverted from some kind of dispensary. But is it a huge problem? No. It can happen … Basically, I can’t point to this facility and blame any crime spikes or anything else on it.”

Photo Credit: Columbia Care CEO Nicholas Vita (third from right) addressed the Riverhead Town Board over a proposed medical marijuana dispensary on East Main Street. (Credit: Chris Lisinksi)

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