It's just a plant!

UPDATE, Thursday, 1:00 p.m. – Shani responds over at City Desk that people in Ward 5 neighborhoods resist the introduction of things like pot and bars because of the memory of how drugs and alcohol wrecked their communities in decades past. (TheMail picked up on the exchange today, and sniped at me for it). I should have been clearer in the original post. I understand what leads people to battle this kind of new stuff; I spent a lot of time listening to their arguments over Bloomingdale’s first sit-down alcohol-serving establishment. I just don’t think they stand up under scrutiny.

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Yesterday, crack pot correspondent Martin Austermuhle discovered that most of the applications for cultivation centers to be licensed under D.C.’s new marijuana law are clustered in the Northeast neighborhoods of Brentwood, Langdon, and Ivy City. Already, I’ve seen grumbling on the internet about “dumping” the facilities in a less affluent area that feels it gets more than its fair share of undesirable businesses. I also have no reason to doubt ANC 5B watcher Geoff Hatchard‘s assessment that the local politicos—-in one of the city’s most notoriously dysfunctional ANCs—-will be quite hostile to the proposed grow operations.

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 found that 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.

To see the positive effect the above-board pot economy can have on a neighborhood, look no further than Oaksterdam, the go-to place in the Bay Area for all things cannabis. It’s spawned any number of ancillary commercial enterprises, and even has a university that prepares people for careers in the medical marijuana industry.

I have no idea why a neighborhood wouldn’t welcome a weed cluster. It’s hell of a lot better than strip clubs.

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