Last month, we wrote about a new study by Santa Monica think tank RAND, which demonstrated that neighborhood crime actually increased after a number of medical marijuana dispensaries in Los Angeles were closed. These data flew in the face of the anecdotal claims of California's law enforcement community, which has argued for years that such dispensaries are a magnet for crimes like burglary. Well, in an illustration of what happens when scientists produce research that doesn't serve the interests of the state, fierce criticism from LA's city attorneys has led RAND to pull the study report from their website. According to spokesman Warren Robak, "As we've begun to take a look at the report, we decided it's best to remove it from circulation until that review is complete."
Looking more closely, it appears that scientific rigor isn't really what's bothering Los Angeles. The RAND report is just one study, after all, and no serious scientist would say that it conclusively answers the question of whether pot dispensaries cause crime. Yet it's something that critics of the statist party line on medical marijuana can point to, and the statists don't want that. In their letter to the study's lead author, city attorneys Jane Usher and Asha Greenberg wrote, "Until you publicly retract your work, we expect the Rand publication to be referenced nationwide, at incalculable avoidable harm to public health and safety." In other words, we don't like what your work found, and we demand you publicly repudiate it. It remains to be seen, of course, what the results of RAND's review might be; frankly, we'd be a little surprised if they didn't put the study right back online. Ultimately, when it comes to social science research, RAND is on firmer ground than the city of Los Angeles, and no one likes to see what appears to be an attempt to censor science.
(Full disclosure: I used to work as a consultant to RAND, and while I haven't worked with any of the researchers involved in this study, I do know some of them.)