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Researcher Finds Only 472 Pot Shops (Not 1,000) in LA

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It's marijuana dispensary shutdown day (even though the "gentle ban" passed by the City Council has been put on hold)--ban author/City Councilmember Jose Huizar is quoted at NPR today saying "It was getting way out of control ... A thousand dispensaries?" Actually, no one seems to know exactly how many dispensaries there are, but opponents do love to talk about the rampant proliferation and usually put the number in the high three digits or low four digits (the city says it sent letters about the ban to 1,046 dispensaries, according to the UCLA Newsroom). Now Bridget Freisthler, an associate professor of social welfare at UCLA's Luskin School of Public Affairs, has found out: there are 472 marijuana dispensaries in Los Angeles as of September 4 (Tuesday this week). That's about the same as the number of bars.

Freisthler and her team were pretty rigorous: "the researchers compiled lists using multiple electronic and hard-copy sources, including the city's finance list. These lists referenced 875 unique locations, including 762 dispensaries registered with the city. When the researchers went to these locations [over the past three weeks], they found that only 472 were actually operating as dispensaries." (The research was funded by the National Institute of Drug Abuse.) Some of the locations visited had been dispensaries once, but many "had been other businesses for decades or were addresses to postal boxes."

According to Freisthler, "The number of medical marijuana dispensaries currently in operation in Los Angeles is roughly the same as the number of bars in the city, and it represents roughly 20 percent of the number of off-premise outlets that sell alcohol, such as liquor and grocery stores." She notes that "I make this comparison because the density of bars and off-premise outlets is related to a whole host of problems, including violent crime and assaults." Freisthler also published research recently showing "no relationship between the density of medical marijuana dispensaries and rates of violent or property crime."

The city's last attempt to regulate pot shops had them capped at 70, but would've grandfathered in 182.
· Study charts actual number of pot shops in L.A. [UCLA Newsroom]
· LAPD Will Start Shutting Down Pot Dispensaries Tomorrow [Curbed LA]