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The Effect of Marijuana Legalization on Jail Populations in Washington State

NCJ Number
Prison Journal Volume: 100 Issue: 4 Dated: 2020 Pages: 510-530
Duane Stanton; Xiaohan Mei; Sohee Kim; Dale Willits; Mary Stohr; Craig Hemmens; Guangzhen Wu; Ruibin Lu; David Makin; Nicholas Lovrich,
Date Published
September 2020
21 pages

Since advocates of marijuana legalization in Washington State argued that it would decrease the jail population and reduce the disproportionate incarceration of minorities, reasoning that the police would refocus their resources on other matters, the current study examined whether this occurred after marijuana was legalized in the state in 2012.


In evaluating whether the assumption occurred, this study examined jail booking data using a set of interrupted time-series regression models. The findings indicate that jail population trends differed among counties across time and with respect to impacts on minorities and women. Regarding ethnic and racial disproportionate impact, there was apparently little positive change. (publisher abstract modified)