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Exploring the Neighborhood-Level Impact of Retail Marijuana Outlets on Crime in Washington State

NCJ Number
Journal of Quantitative Criminology Volume: Online Dated: 2021
John Thacker; Maggie Elliott Martin; Yvonne Cristy; Deirdre Rabideau; Michael Shively; Ryan Kling
Date Published
October 2021

This study examined whether marijuana retail outlets attract criminal activity in surrounding areas and promote social disorganization, using the analysis of secondary data from Washington State, one of the first states to legalize the medical and recreational use of marijuana.


Using geocoded police incident reports as a proxy for criminal events, retail outlet licensing/sales data, and other contextual data, we use a difference-in-difference and other quasi-experimental techniques to model whether the opening of a recreational outlet affects crime in the surrounding neighborhoods, specifically in the cities of Seattle, Bellevue, and Tacoma. The analyses found modest but statistically significant increases in property crime in Census block groups containing new retail stores. The findings from this study are consistent with some previous research that finds a link between marijuana outlets opening and an increase in neighborhood crime, but additional research is needed to further explore the association, for instance, in other states that have legalized recreational marijuana. (Published abstract provided)