MURP Chair Publishes ‘Planning for Marijuana’ Article

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August 2014

Denver, CO – Jeremy Németh, Associate Professor and Chair of Planning and Design and Co-Director of the Urban Design Program, and Eric Ross (MURP 2012), Lecturer in Planning and Design, published an article in the August edition of the Journal of the American Planning Association, the leading professional and academic planning resource. The article Planning for Marijuana: The Cannabis Conundrum shows that government regulations will likely cause an inequitable distribution of marijuana business throughout the city. Though the impact of dispensaries to the neighborhoods in which they are located has yet to be understood, the research is clear that the majority of allowable land for marijuana business is in the city’s poorest and most ethnically and racially diverse areas.

“Though technically medical marijuana dispensaries provide a healthcare service, they have historically been required to adopt the same zoning restrictions as businesses that sell alcohol, pornography, and firearms,” said Jeremy. “Generally, stores that sell these types of ‘vices’ are prohibited from locating in residential or mixed-use neighborhoods and are pushed into much less affluent neighborhoods.”

This is the first article to look at the equity implications of new medical marijuana facilities. It deals with an emerging and controversial issue: planning for medical and recreational marijuana dispensaries in states where marijuana has been legalized. Jeremy and Eric describe how planners across the nation are dealing with this issue, given that in some cities there are now more medical marijuana dispensaries than Starbucks. The authors’ focus especially on how and why poor and disadvantaged communities get most of these businesses, but they show that the impact on these communities varies under different planning regimes.  It’s an article about old-fashioned planning issues — the siting of controversial businesses — with a 21st century spin.

“As medical marijuana has become legal in 23 states and DC, municipalities must determine where these businesses will be allowed to operate,” said Jeremy. “I encourage my students, and city planners, to think about the impacts zoning regulations have on the entire community, not just adopt regulations that have been in place for other vices.” 

The study is getting a lot of attention, including mention in the following outlets:

Jeremy was also interviewed in a story on 9News on August 13, Lakewood PD fighting crime through blueprints.

More recently, Jeremy was quoted in an AP article on November 11, New pot shops on the block not always so popular.