What About Equity? Neighborhood Deprivation and Cannabis Retailers in Portland, Oregon

  • Caislin L Firth Department of Epidemiology, School of Public Health, University of Washington, Seattle, WA, USA; Faculty of Health Sciences, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, BC, Canada
  • Beatriz H Carlini Alcohol & Drug Abuse Institute, University of Washington, Seattle, WA, USA
  • Julia A Dilley Program Design and Evaluation Services, Multnomah County Health Department and Oregon Public Health Division, Portland, OR, USA
  • Jon Wakefield Department of Biostatistics, School of Public Health, University of Washington, Seattle, WA, USA
  • Anjum Hajat Department of Epidemiology, School of Public Health, University of Washington, Seattle, WA, USA

Abstract

The impacts of recently legalized cannabis retail markets on urban neighborhoods are largely unknown. More cannabis retailers may be operating in neighborhoods experiencing deprivation because of regulations that limit where cannabis businesses can operate. Increased exposure to cannabis retailers in deprived neighborhoods could have negative consequences on perceived safety and social cohesion within neighborhoods, and vulnerable residents, specifically youth, may be at increased risk of underage cannabis use and its associated criminal justice penalties. On the other hand, cannabis businesses potentially provide for economic growth in deprived areas and divert illicit activities. This study used innovative methods and integrated nested Laplace approximation (INLA) spatial regression to estimate the association between neighborhood deprivation and the distribution of cannabis retailers in Portland, Oregon, neighborhoods in September 2017. Across Portland, 66% of 117 neighborhoods had at least one cannabis retailer (range 0-13 retailers). Model results indicated that a one-standard deviation increase in neighborhood deprivation corresponded with 73% more cannabis retailers (aRR 1.73, 95% CI: 1.32–2.27) after adjusting for availability of eligible property, population density and neighborhood size. Findings of this study support the hypothesis that cannabis retailers are more likely to located in relatively deprived neighborhoods, suggesting the need to consider spatial equity in cannabis policies to mitigate disproportionate exposure to retailers, particularly if retailer exposure is associated with negative consequences.

Published
2020-07-03
Section
Original Report