Marijuana legalization causes major drop in traffic stops and searches

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Legalized marijuana has had some surprising results that many hadn’t considered

It has already been shown that legalized marijuana results in lower teen consumption. It has also been shown that workplaces are safer where marijuana is acceptable and that property values in areas that have marijuana dispensaries are higher than before the shops were in place. A new study shows that marijuana has had yet another impact that hadn’t been previously considered and one that deals directly with civil liberties. Where marijuana has been legalized, traffic stops and searches are down – way down.

According to data provided by the Burlington Police Department in Vermont, traffic stops have dropped 70% since the state legalized marijuana. As the state’s largest local law enforcement division, the results are substantial and show that roadside searches conducted of all ethnic groups have fallen, as well. The police department admits the direct correlation between legalized marijuana and a drop in searches.

If anyone believes this to be just a one-off situation, a trip to Colorado and Washington provide additional evidence. In both states, roadside searches dropped by 50% after marijuana was legalized. While certain ethnic groups were still searched more than others, the decline is creating a better, safer environment for everyone.

The director of Northeastern University’s Institute on Race and Justice, Jack McDevitt, said in an interview with NBC News, “Searches where you don’t find something are really negative towards a community. Have a police officer search your car is really like, ‘Why are they doing this to me?’ And you get more pissed off. If you’re trying to do relationship building, it’s not a good thing to do a lot of searches.”

A reduction in stops helps to build trust in law enforcement – unnecessary targeting of certain groups diminishes. Additionally, it frees up valuable resources that are better used combatting real crimes. A study conducted last year showed that, in marijuana legal states, more arrests for violent crimes, vehicle theft and property crime were being made than before legalization.