Police Searches Drop Dramatically in States that Legalized Marijuana

Police Searches Drop Dramatically in States that Legalized Marijuana

Published on 6/22/17

An analysis of several years of traffic stops has recently concluded that the legalization of marijuana has very significantly lowered the amount of police searches in states like Washington and Colorado. In recreational marijuana states like these, the amount of traffic stop searches was cut in half after only a few months of marijuana legalization. The racial disparities of traffic searches have also gone down in Colorado and Washington after legalization, though Blacks and Hispanics are still searched at higher rates. It's clear that the alleged presence of marijuana is used frequently as a reason to search citizens, creating distrust with the police who stop and search Blacks and Hispanics more often. The legalization of marijuana has many benefits apart from directly removing the criminal element from many normal citizens, but it's time now that more states take responsibility and stop treating normal citizens like criminals. 

The overuse of traffic stops can damage the public trust in police, particularly when searches disproportionately involve black and Hispanic drivers.

In both states, marijuana legalization eliminated one of the major justifications used by police officers to stop motorists, cutting searches by more than 40 percent after legalization. In Colorado, the change occurred gradually, with searches dropping initially by 30 percent, and then flatting out to a more than 50-percent drop within a year.

In Washington, there was a drop of more than 50 percent in searches within three months of legalization. The search rate remained low thereafter. The 12 states in the Stanford study that did not pass marijuana decriminalization legislation during the period did not experience significant drops

Where's Weed