U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

Effects of Marijuana Legalization on Law Enforcement and Crime: Executive Summary

NCJ Number
Date Published
June 2020
24 pages
This is the Executive Summary of the Final Report on a research project that used a mix of quantitative and qualitative approaches to examine the effects on crime and law enforcement of Washington State's legalization of possession of a small amount of cannabis by adults.
In examining the effect of this legislation and policy on crime and law enforcement, this study used focus groups that involved municipal, county, state, and tribal law enforcement personnel; joint and individual interviews with 153 justice system personnel; case study profiles; and quantitative crime data, data on calls for service, body and dashboard police video footage, and data on police practices and strategies. The study found that marijuana legalization has not had overall consistently positive or negative effects. Qualitative data suggest that the advent of marijuana legalization has increased concern about traffic safety issues, greater youth access to marijuana, and the persistence of Washington-based sales of marijuana being trafficked to states that have not legalized it. In terms of positive impacts, legalization has apparently coincided with an increase in crime clearance rates in several areas, suggesting that legalization may result in a net positive redistribution in police human resource allocation. In addition, fewer persons are being processed by the criminal justice system of nonviolent marijuana possession offenses. Although not a focus of this research, it is important to examine the differential effects of marijuana legalization by race and age. 3 figures, 1 table, and 13 references

Date Published: June 1, 2020