With the advent of legalized marijuana in Washington State, it seems that law enforcement officers have become somewhat perplexed by the idea of no longer busting the average citizen for measly pot possession, and have since been forced to focus their energy on cases involving real criminals.
A recent report from the American Civil Liberties Union finds there has been a significant decrease in misdemeanor charges filed against individuals over the age of 21 for possession of marijuana, ever since Washington voters approved it for recreational use. In fact, the report finds there were only 120 cases involving marijuana possession in 2013 as opposed to the 5,531 reported the year prior.
The ACLU’s criminal justice policy advisor, Mark Cooke, said legal marijuana has eliminated some of law enforcement’s busy work, which has allowed them to set their sights on actual crime. “The data strongly suggest that I-502 has achieved one of its primary goals -- to free up limited police and prosecutorial resources,” he said. “The hope is that could free up scarce limited public safety resources to focus on more pressing needs.”
Still, police say they want to remain diligent in their efforts to police marijuana laws, citing concerns over the potential risk for increased underage use the moment recreational sales begin later this year. As it stands, minors are prohibited under state law from possessing marijuana. However, recent data indicates that minor consumption of marijuana has been on the decline for the past two years – down from 4,127 pot-related charges in 2011 to 1,963 in 2013.
Despite legalization, Cooke says racial disparity is still prevalent in Washington. He says that out of the state’s 120 possession charges filed last year, blacks still accounted for three times more than whites.
Mike Adams writes for stoners and smut enthusiasts in High Times, Playboy’s The Smoking Jacket and Hustler Magazine. You can follow him on Twitter @adamssoup and on Facebook/mikeadams73.