City Desk

From Housing Complex: Why Isn’t Ward 5 Thrilled About Being the Pot District?

My colleague Lydia DePillis wonders why residents of Ward 5 aren't pleased with plans to open most of the city's marijuana dispensaries there:

Such antipathy makes no sense. Concentrating marijuana production (and even sales, although that's not what these applications are for) in Ward 5 would be a boon to the area, not a blight—they're employment centers, after all, that will pour capital back into the communities they inhabit. Cannabis greenhouses would celebrate and compliment the presence of the neighboring National Arboretum. They're heavily regulated enough that any leakage of product to people who shouldn't have it would get them shut down in a jiffy.

Furthermore, there's no evidence that marijuana operations increase crime—in fact, experience points the other way. The Denver police department foundthat pot dispensaries aren't robbed any more than banks or liquor stores. And last year, when Los Angeles abruptly closed 70 percent of the 638 dispensaries operating in the city, the RAND Corporation reported an increase in crime over the ten days following the crackdown. "Despite its plausibility, we know of no systemic evaluation of the claim that dispensaries themselves attract or cause crime," the authors wrote.

Sure, logically, the signs point to pot dispensaries being a good thing in neighborhoods. But decades of pot-is-a-gateway-drug training are hard to undo. And for longstanding black residents who saw drugs destroy communities, it's not a surprise that they're less willing to draw a distinction between pot and other drugs.

Besides, the pillars of Ward 5, like those in every other ward, often don't want anything new, be it a pizza joint or a pot disepensary. Like NIMBYs everywhere, they fear traffic, noise, new people walking around. And in the case of a dispensary, they have this extra armament to fight against the proposal by demonizing drugs.

While I agree with Lydia, I'm not surprised at all that people reflexively don't want weed, legally or illegally, being sold in their backyards.

Photo from flickr user erissiva under a Creative Commons attribution license.

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  • Mrs. D

    Um, I for one will take more traffic and people walking around in the business districts of my neighborhood...and I don't mean commuters and church-goers speeding in and out of the city from PG county. Dispensaries are, at best, dead spots on the street. I think pot should be blanket legal (for adults, regulated like alcohol) and still don't think they're a good business to have in an urban environment that COULD host businesses that actually serve a large number of residents.