Evaluating medical marijuana dispensary policies: spatial methods for the study of environmentally-based interventions

Am J Community Psychol. 2013 Mar;51(1-2):278-88. doi: 10.1007/s10464-012-9542-6.


In 1996, California was the first state to pass a Compassionate Use Act allowing for the legal use of marijuana for medical purposes. Here we review several current policy and land use environmental interventions designed to limit problems related to the influx of medical marijuana dispensaries across California cities. Then we discuss the special challenges, solutions, and techniques used for studying the effects of these place-based policies. Finally, we present some of the advanced spatial analytic techniques that can be used to evaluate the effectiveness of environmental interventions, such as those related to reducing problems associated with the proliferation of medical marijuana dispensaries. Further, using data from a premise survey of all the dispensaries in Sacramento, this study will examine what characteristics and practices of these dispensaries are related to crime within varying distances from the dispensaries (e.g., 100, 250, 500, and 1,000 feet). We find that some security measures, such as security cameras and having a door man outside, implemented by medical marijuana dispensary owners might be effective at reducing crime within the immediate vicinity of the dispensaries.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Bayes Theorem
  • California
  • Cannabis*
  • Commerce / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Commerce / organization & administration*
  • Humans
  • Marijuana Smoking / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Phytotherapy*
  • Public Policy*
  • Spatial Analysis*
  • United States