Thursday, June 27, 2013

How marijuana business density can affect underage use and public health

Why have I been blogging about marijuana land use and zoning issues?  What does marijuana business density have to do with youth substance abuse prevention?

As the Prevention WINS letter to the Liquor Control Board regarding their I-502 initial draft rules says, multiple studies indicate that communities with a glut of tobacco and alcohol retail outlets experience higher rates of problematic use, including underage use, of tobacco and alcohol.  (See references at the end of this post.)

The comments go on to say: 

Neighborhoods should not be over-run with marijuana retail outlets.  This is of special concern in low income neighborhoods where socio-economic disparities related to substance abuse are evident. 

We recommend that the Board be more specific in determining the number of retail licenses in a certain geographic area.  By assigning a certain number by county only, the Board opens up the possibility of a disproportionate amount of those retail outlets being established in a small area within a county.  Specifically, when the Board determines how many retail licenses are to be allowed in King County, we are concerned that a disproportionate amount of those licensees will open stores in Seattle when they should be evenly distributed throughout the county.

Before the approval of Initiative 1183, when the Liquor Control Board considered adding liquor stores several factors were taken into consideration.  Information reviewed included data about demographics including population over 21, population that would turn 21 in the next five years, and overall population growth. Other factors included how much business current stores were doing and convenience to major populations (15 minute travel time to a store).  We suggest that the Board use similar demographic, population growth, and travel time parameters to determine where a marijuana retail store should be located.  By limiting marijuana retail outlets similar to how the Board limited liquor outlets, they will be evenly distributed among the state’s population, regardless of the socio-economic make-up of a community, and accessible to all who want to purchase marijuana.     

Here are a few of the studies about tobacco and alcohol retail outlet density:

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