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Study: Marijuana Dispensaries Make Neighborhoods Safer

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — Cannabis may be California's largest cash crop, but dispensaries who sell the profitable plants haven't always reaped their rewards.

"A while ago, when it was sort of the wild wild west of medical cannabis," said Matt Z-Berg of River City Phoenix Dispensary in Sacramento.

Matt Z-Berg believes strict security regulations mandated for his, as well as the 3,000 dispensaries across the state, keeps criminals away.

"We've never had an incident," he said.

Now a study, funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, backs him up.

Researchers at UC Irvine analyzed the impact of widespread dispensary closures in Los Angeles.

The findings?

"Neighborhoods without legal pot, go to pot."

What's more? Researchers say marijuana dispensaries reduce crime.

How? Security.

River City Phoenix considers itself Sacramento's leading example. Patients are cleared through bullet proof glass, watched on one of 30 surveillance cameras, and surrounded by 24-hour armed guards.

"We actually own our own security guard company," said Z-Berg.

What the UCI study didn't look at is the impact of the industry's cash-only system.

"If we could fully bank the cannabis industry, it would make everything much safer," said Fiona Ma.

Chairwoman of the Board of Equalization Fiona Ma is still trying to come up with a banking solution for marijuana dispensaries.

We may be close to seeing recreational marijuana on the street, but California banks still don't take pot customers.

"If they don't have a bank account then these are just transacting in cash every day," she said.

Creating crime or helping stop it?

"More safety to the community that you're operating in," said Z-Berg

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