Marijuana and Cannabis News

RAND Retracts Report Showing Cannabis Dispensaries Lower Crime
By Steve Elliott ~alapoet~ in Dispensaries, News
Monday, October 24, 2011 at 12:04 pm
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Los Angeles Times
Los Angeles City Attorney Carmen "Nuch" Trutanich's office was "vocal" in its criticism of last month's RAND report showing that crime went up in neighborhoods when dispensaries were forced to close -- so RAND took their own report off their website on October 11, and officially retracted the report today, Monday, October 24.
After "vocal criticism" from the Los Angeles City Attorney's Office, the RAND Corporation on Monday officially retracted its study "Regulating Medical Marijuana Dispensaries: An Overview with Preliminary Evidence of Their Impact on Crime," which was released in September.

Two weeks ago, RAND had pulled the study off its website and posted a notice that "This document has been withdrawn pending further review." Toke of the Town broke that story before it hit the national newswires.

"The L.A. City Attorney's office has been the organization most vocal in its criticism of the study, questioning its methods and conclusions," RAND media relations guy Warren Robak told Toke of the Town on October 11.

"Questions raised following publication prompted RAND to undertake an unusual post-publication internal review of the study," RAND said in a press release. "That review determined the crime data used in the analysis are insufficient to answer the questions targeted by the study."

According to RAND, the primary issue discovered during that internal review was that the data described as covering the city of Los Angeles and surrounding areas did not include crime data reported by the Los Angeles Police Department.

When the report was released on September 20, it was seen as dispelling the myth that there are inherent links between marijuana distribution centers and crime. 

The study upon which the RAND report was based indicated that crime was as much as 60 percent greater around medical marijuana dispensaries that had been shut down by the City of Los Angeles compared to areas which still had open dispensaries.

"[W]e found no evidence that medical marijuana dispensaries in general cause crime to rise," said Mireille Jacobson, the study's lead author and a senior economist at RAND.

RAND researchers said they intended to conduct a new analysis -- presumably, one more pleasing to law enforcement -- once they have an adequate set of crime information.

"Because that work could take many weeks," RAND said in a release, "RAND officials wanted to be clear that the study's findings cannot be validated at this time."

"This was a rare failure of our peer review system," claimed Debra Knopman, vice president of the RAND Infrastructure, Safety, and Environment division. "We take our commitment to quality and objectivity seriously so we have retracted the study in order to correct it."

The entire episode serves as a disquieting reminder that political grandstanders like L.A. City Attorney Carmen "Nuch" Trutanich are perfectly willing to throw their weight around when it comes to a scientific study that makes them look ridiculous by exposing as false and misleading their claims that marijuana dispensaries cause increased crime rates.

Even more disquieting is the fact that a respected research institution such as RAND would be cojones-challenged enough to actually back down and retract the study in the face of political pressure.

Stay tuned to learn whether the LAPD will provide cooked numbers to RAND to ensure their next study gets police-approved results.


Editor's note: Thanks to the unstoppable Shannie Lammie for her indispensable research assistance on this story.

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