WEDNESDAY, June 6 (HealthDay News) -- Neighborhoods with medical marijuana dispensaries do not have higher crime rates than other neighborhoods, according to researchers who examined 95 different areas of Sacramento, Calif., in 2009.
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As more U.S. states have legalized the use of marijuana for medical reasons, some people have expressed concern that outlets that dispense the drug and their clients will become targets for crime.
But that's not the case, according to the study in the July issue of the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.
The researchers found no evidence that neighborhoods with a higher density of medical marijuana dispensaries had higher rates of violent crime or property crime than other neighborhoods.
The study authors added, however, that further research is needed because they looked at neighborhoods at only one point in time. A neighborhood's crime patterns could change over time as more medical marijuana dispensaries open.
"This study is a good first step," study leader Nancy Kepple, of the University of California, Los Angeles, said in a journal news release. "But it was not designed to address the bigger picture of how these dispensaries might be affecting neighborhoods."
She also noted that the findings are based on one city, and research in other cities may yield different results. Currently, 17 states and Washington, D.C., permit medical marijuana use.
"The more research that's done, the more complete a picture we'll have," Kepple said.
Medical marijuana was legalized for use in patients whose doctors recommend it for relief during treatment for cancer, AIDS, chronic pain and other conditions, according to the California Department of Public Health.
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SOURCE: Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, news release, June 1, 2012