Publication Alert

Thomas, C. & Freisthler, B. Examining the locations of medical marijuana dispensaries in Los Angeles. Available online September 2015, Drug and Alcohol Review. doi: 10.1111/dar.12325

Introduction and Aims: Little is known about the spatial distribution of medical marijuana dispensaries, particularly whether or not sites are disproportionately located in minority or communities with younger populations.  This paper will assess if there is a relationship between medical marijuana dispensaries and neighborhood sociodemographics.

Design and Methods: This study used an ecological, cross-sectional design of 1000 Census tracts from Los Angeles city in 2012 to explore the relationship between neighborhood sociodemographics, structural features of neighborhoods and density of medical marijuana dispensaries. Locations of dispensaries were obtained through a premise survey of all listed dispensaries. Data on neighborhood characteristics were obtained from Geolytics. The study used Bayesian conditionally autoregressive models that include controls for spatial heterogeneity to analyze the data.

Results: Findings show that dispensaries are located in areas that allow for commercial establishments. Results indicate a positive relationship between dispensaries and percent commercially zoned, areas with highway ramp access, density of on- and off-premise alcohol outlets and percent Hispanic residents.

Discussion and Conclusions: In sum, the findings suggest that, likely due to zoning regulations, dispensaries were located in primarily commercially zoned areas with greater road access (as measured by the presence of highway ramps). Given that areas with higher densities of dispensaries also have higher densities of alcohol outlets, future work should examine how this co-location affects neighborhood problems such as crime and violence.

A copy of this manuscript can be found at: